Why is learning a second language often more boring and how to make it more effective?

Have you ever been in a relationship with a foreigner or enjoyed a netflix series in a foreign language? Or was there something different that excited you, kept you awake and continues to do in a foreign language that made you stay with it? And although you didn’t know first what they were communicating or singing about, you understood something, while some time later you found yourself picking up words in the language you didn’t speak or study yet (well)? And if yes to most of it or something similiar, than it is that thing that made you learn.

The clip gives me good vibes. I think: Must be cool to speak like that. Speaking like that must give me good vibes myself: I learn fast.

Why is learning a second language then often so difficult? Often times, we don’t learn another language because of a single movie or because of a frequent encounter with a foreigner such as in an annual business meeting, but becaue we have to. Having to lacks naturality, which is the naturality that comes with learning, for example by maintaining frequent contact with a foreigner or an interest in a foreign language. Because you are interested or because you want to learn something that “foreign vocabulary” can offer, you keep at it and you likely naturally figure out what the other person tries to convey, or what that amazing song or book might mean. Learning ends up feeling rewarding.

Following curricular, studying vocabulary and grammar tends to feel unnatural if it is something that you don’t need, but need to gain something out of it. Remember how you learned you first langauge? I hope you don’t remember it, but you remember how it came naturally and how it was context dependend and in that context relevant to you. You learned by applying language. ” I am hungry. I am angry. I need this. Can I do this?” And as you grew older, you became professional in your primary language. You didn’t study it by force, but because of how you and your environment shaped and responded to your linguistic capabilities automatically.

A child wanting to eat potatoes for dinner wouldn’t learn first the grammar, an ettiquete and all the words for fruits and vegetables. Intead it would get quick to the point by likely asking “Can I eat potatoes for dinner?”. Potatoes are what it is familiar with and dinner is what it tends to have daily.” As adults, this works similiar.

Forcing ourselves or having to learn something that lacks the relevancy to us, often feels time consuming but also less effective. For example, why should you be able to learn to communicate about the weather and ettique in country Y, when right now your country and your way of communicating is individual and of individual importance to you? And why first piling through various grammar rules, when learning to say a sentence in the correct time leads you to the response or the gain you hoped to achieve with it right away? “Did you send the report?” “Yes.” “When?” “Yesterday.” “I did not recieve it.” “Did you look in your spam folder?” ” No, I will have a look, Thank you.” [Here the correct time is automatically learned and leads to effective conversation].

Sometimes we have to learn vocabulary that is not relevant to us. This can lead to a waste of time, but also is inefficient because it lacks the interest. Why learning research vocabulary, when other topics are more relevant to you?

What makes learning more effective? Learning is a process and often it is effective if what we learns aligns with our interestes and needs. These may not always be about fun, but anything that is important to us; our job or a thing we want to pursue like understanding foreign sports better or needing specific vocabulary to explain ourselves fast as well as under pressure. This makes learning effective, when it is about you. And of course having someone to support you in getting there. In doing so, learning grammar and the correct time comes naturally with it; and a pass in the exam or better communication at work likely too.

Whats a good teacher then? Someone who lets you be yourself and who challenges you too, like you would be in real life 😉

What does lost in translation mean?

Lost in Translation means that the meaning given to a word or phrase is lost in translation. This can lead to misunderstandings. Let’s take the question “Do you like the Big Apple?”. If you translate the question word to word, in another language, the most basic assumption would be, whether you like to eat the fruit apple and conclusively apples in larger size. You want to answer of course and may think “Hmm. Yes, I like big apples and I’ll settle for small ones too.” The answer is being translated and you say “Yes, most often.” , or “Not much” because you don’t like apples, for example.

What is meant with the question “Do you like the big apple?”. In the example, “The Big Apple” is used as a reference point or in other words as a nickname for the metropolis “New York” in the United States. It is known as “The Big Apple”. Now you could wonder, why would someone not directly ask you whether you like New York instead of asking you if you like “The Big Apple”. This can have different reasons, for example having a different cultural backgrounds, where the term is commonly used or in other examples having different interests, or different meanings attached to what is being said. Does it matter that much? you may wonder.

It does matter, because by giving words different meanings, the expected result runs risk of being different then what was expected or hoped for. So imagine you set up a meeting with a counterpartner and that partner wants to set up a business in the United States. When they approach you and ask how you like the Big Apple (their primary choice of business location) and hear back that this is something you really don’t like, maybe never liked, that person might go on to look for another business partner. Worse, both of you might even be outraged, since it was clear to both of you why you met; “Lost in Translation”.

Sure, that’s quite the example. However, it can happen quite quickly. In my language teaching, I pay attention to what you mean and therefore, the message you want to convey. I listen and offer word alternatives to reduce”lost in translation”. Most of the time I succeed by using simple expressions. Why simple? Too often we get tangled up in long sentences and the longer the sentences, the more risk for “Lost in Translation”, or in other words “miscommunication”. Second, many words do not exist in the other languages.

Want to get to know your way of communicating better or have me help you become better in English? I offer language classes to German native speakers and non German native speakers. The benefit? If you can explain it to me, you can explain it to someone else too. Real-life learning.