A typical mistake when learning languages is to stick with learning things close or related to us.

It is important to go outside of our comfort zone and discover new things. This is not only crucial for discovery itself and understanding the culture, but also because the shock related to learning something different allows it to stick to us.

I have been using Duolingo for learning Esperanto and cementing my Korean vocabulary for the past year or so. During this time, I have complained numerous times about the bizarre sentences that may appear during my study. The most bizarre type of sentences is of animals doing humans tasks. This doesn’t make any sense to me and clearly isn’t related to culture but it has somehow allowed those words to stick in my memory.

I recently learned the word 고슴도치 which means “hedgehog”. It certainly won’t be useful any time soon but I am rather certain that just thanks to the weirdness of the sentence I saw it appear, I will remember it the day I will need it. It stems from the shock created at the time of learning.

Yet, this doesn’t only apply to study material. It also concerns experiences per se. Putting yourself in a situation where you have no choice but to speak/write the language will push your brain to its limits and even further.

In 2010, I went to Korea without having too much of a handle of Korean. Doing some WWOOFing, I went to some very distant countryside areas where nobody could speak English. I spent 2 weeks and a half in a high school, living with the students, having no choice but to get better on the spot. I had to learn using the clues of context left around me. The first days were straining but as time passed, it became easier and I finished this experience laughing and talking without too much trouble with everybody. This period is, to this day, one of my most precious memories.

Try to get yourself shocked, uneasy and amazed at things around you in the language. Doing this will grant you a renewed pleasure in the language and an easier approach to the language intricacies.

Written by

Polyglot speaking 6 languages. Writer. Helping the world to learn languages and become more understanding of others. Say hi → https://linktr.ee/MathiasBarra

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