People study languages for many reasons: because they have to at school; because they want to for a hobby; because they need to for work and so on.
People also study in different ways: some people bury themselves in books and read alone, others may go to language classes. In my opinion though, the best language learners all have one thing in common: confidence to use the language. For me, this is the single most important factor to improving your language ability. You have to be an active learner, not just a passive one. What do I mean by this? Well, if you just read, or just listen, you are getting a lot of input, but if you never use it as output in writing or speaking, it is much harder to retain the information. Also, if you don’t communicate with your language then you will get no feedback about how well you can use the language.
Take a language class for example: If you speak and make a mistake, your teacher will probably correct you, or at least make you aware that you have made a mistake, and help you to self-correct. Being aware of how a language works, and how to use the language are also key elements to being a successful language learner.
So, firstly and most importantly you’ve got to speak, and secondly you should write. But to whom? How? What?
These days with the internet there is no shortage of opportunities to find someone to communicate with on-line. If you don’t feel comfortable with that, then what about your classmates? Or, check out what your local community offers – Are there any international parties like there are here in Sapporo? Or maybe you have to advertise that you want to practice English in your local community centre or library. This website also has some good ideas. Read it after you’ve read this!
Anyway, the reason for my inspiration to write on this topic today is thanks to a friend of mine. We are both living in Sapporo, and are both ourselves language students. She is an excellent example of someone who is a real USER of the language, so much so that she is at this very moment live on local radio using her Japanese live to all of Sapporo! And she has been on TV more than once! I am so impressed with her confidence to use the language she has. She takes opportunities to use her language all the time – at work, at home, in her language lessons, doing her homework, and out and about living in the community. That is why she is a successful language learner – she has confidence to use the language she has.
Follow in her footsteps, and although you may not end up on the radio or on TV, I guarantee that you will learn far better than if you are a passive learner who is too shy or afraid of making mistakes to communicate. YOU CAN DO IT!