Are extroverts better at learning languages? Au contraire! Learn how to survive (and thrive) as an introvert with these tips from Alexandria, VA tutor Elisha O...
There’s been a lot of hype lately about introverts and extroverts. And no matter which side you identify with (or if you’re a little of both!) there are definitely advantages and strengths on both sides of the spectrum.
As an introvert myself, my most productive and creative time is the time I spend alone. However, I’ve found that there are also many skills that simply cannot be done alone — and learning a new language is one of them.
Sure, you can stay home and read, study, and watch movies in your target language. But in order to really improve, communicating with others needs to be part of your learning strategy. While some extroverts jump at the opportunity to go out and socialize in a foreign language, the same idea leaves many introverts shaking in their boots.
So, does that mean that extroverts are better at learning languages? Not at all. But introverts may need to try different strategies along the way.
Here is a list of the most common obstacles introverts face when learning a language and how to solve them.
Problem: The thought of a “language meetup group” makes you cringe
Solution: Ease into learning from the comfort of your home
If you’ve never felt like your best self at networking events or mixers, your instinct will probably be to avoid group language meetups. Walking into a building and breaking the ice with one person after another in your first language is scary enough, let alone doing it in your second or third!
Well, there’s good news for us introverts. These days, the internet offers opportunities to connect with others no matter where you are — even from your own home. This makes a lot of students feel more comfortable, since you’re not in an unfamiliar location. Technology provides just the right amount of distance to feel comfortable and secure.
Problem: You’re good at reading, writing, and listening, but struggle with speaking
Solution: Practice speaking without people around
While this may affect introverts and extroverts alike, introverts are less likely to seek out speaking opportunities and get out of their comfort zones, which furthers the gap.
Before you delve into a new language (whether for the first time or after a long hiatus), try listening to music in your target language and singing along as best you can. You’ll get a feel for vocabulary as well as how to pronounce the words, which can help you feel a lot more confident the next time you speak out loud.
You can also try talking to yourself throughout the day in your target language. For example, try narrating what you’re doing as you get ready for work or school in the morning. The trick to overcoming your nerves is often just practicing speaking more!
Problem: Breaking the ice is not your forte
Solution: Prep yourself with conversation starters
“You mean I have to… think of stuff to say?”
No! Not necessarily. As introverts, we often prefer for others to set the tone and pace of the conversation, at least at first! If starting conversations isn’t your cup of tea, and talking to strangers makes you queasy, consider requesting more structured classes from your teacher.
My ESL students also enjoy the seasonal book clubs that I coordinate. With this format, students don’t have the pressure of responding to small talk questions or improvising. The book provides a context in which they can frame the conversation, and they can even prepare responses to discussion questions ahead of time.
Problem: You’re afraid of looking “dumb”
Solution: Find a tutor you feel comfortable with
If there’s one thing I hear from students the most, it’s this. Sure, learning would be so much easier if we could travel back in time and return to being children, when our brains are like sponges and our pride could never be hurt! But learning a language as an adult can be a totally different experience. We often fear that we will appear less intelligent and articulate than we really are when we speak another language.
My advice for these students is to find a tutor who has actually learned a second language or lived in a foreign country. These teachers get it. They know first-hand the courage it takes to learn a new language, and will support and encourage you every step of the way!
Introverts, what other tips have you found helpful for learning a new language? Leave a comment below and share it with us!
Photo by uoeducation