Even though this is probably not a very original statement, I have to say it: living abroad is an amazing, enriching, educational experience — and if you are about to leave your country (or you’re already walking around the streets of your new city), you should know that you will remember this feeling of happy disorientation for the rest of your life. You have a fantastic opportunity and you should make the most of it, otherwise you’ll regret it when you’re older and too busy with other stuff. You have the chance to grow, to feed your curiosity, to immerse yourself in other cultures and to make friends from all around the world. How cool is that?
But first there is a little bit of work to do: you can’t just go to another country and hope that good things will happen if you don’t know how to communicate in a foreign language.
We know that learning a language is a big challenge and can be frustrating if approached in the wrong way. That’s why we recommend that you stop for a second and try to understand what kind of language learner you are. This will make things much easier for you, we promise!
Introvert vs. Extrovert
Do you enjoy being surrounded by people? Do you crave the attention of the group? Are you the soul of the party? If you answered yes to these questions, this probably means that you are an extrovert.
On the other hand, if you are shy, you love to spend time alone reading a book and you think a lot before giving an answer, then you are an introvert.
Both personalities are fantastic and can also be mixed (“ambiverts” switch between the two extremes depending on the context), but what happens when you put a lot of introverts and extroverts in the same room and ask them to learn a language? The extroverts will become impatient because the introverts will need time before giving their answers. The introverts, on the other hand, would probably prefer to spend more time reading and writing and will become annoyed with how much the extroverts talk.
Are you an extrovert or an introvert?
Relaxed vs. Hyperactive
If you prefer not to “change your life” in order to learn a language, you adapt your study time to your busy schedule (and not the other way around), and you hope that the language skills will materialize sooner or later — even if you don’t put in a lot of effort — then you are certainly a relaxed student.
On the other hand, if you become obsessed with a new language, spend as much as you can learning, and enrich your vocabulary by adapting your daily routine to the new activity (watching movies and reading books and newspapers in the new language, for example), then you are a hyperactive learner.
Both attitudes have good and bad sides (even though a balance would be perfect) and certainly influence the level of satisfaction of the student: relaxed learners will become frustrated very soon if they have to avoid events and social engagements in order to study, the hyperactive learners will become frustrated if they don’t see their language level improve very quickly.
Are you a relaxed or a hyperactive student?
Observer vs. Listener
This is not about personality characteristics, but has something to do with how the brain works. Some people — the observers — still remember things they studied in primary school because they used visual tricks that are still working: using different colors to write, underlining sentences or creating page templates for their notes. These are tricks to make things more memorable and to keep them safely stored in the long term. If you are nodding while reading this, then you are probably an observer.
If you use mnemonic devices relating to sound, music and voice then you are certainly a listener: why else do you think kids learn the alphabet with that song?
Are you an observer or a listener?
Early bird vs. Night owl
Same old story: it’s 8am, you’re in your language class and you’re barely awake. Some of your friends are in the same situation, but some of your other classmates are active and they’re already bombarding you with thousands of words. If you relate to the first category, then the situation is probably the opposite when night approaches. When it’s dark outside, your brain unlocks and you feel like you could learn, study, watch a movie, do a lot of different activities for hours. You call your friends and… what? All those hyperactive annoying morning people are now super tired and they barely speak to you because they don’t have any energy left.
Are you an early bird or a night owl?
Control freak vs. “I will manage somehow”
So, you’ve been studying a foreign language for some weeks now, you don’t really feel comfortable, you know you still make a lot of mistakes — but it doesn’t matter. You know that you have to start talking in order to improve, and you just put yourself out there! You ask for directions from people on the street, you order food, you try to make new friends… all in a language that’s not your mother tongue! So what if you don’t know how to say this or that? You’ll explain, you’ll make gestures, you’ll learn by doing!
And what about your friend? He simply cannot let it go: he wants to have good pronunciation, he practices a lot (way more than you) in order to avoid as many mistakes as possible — he wants to be perfect. He certainly knows a lot of theory, and it all sounds right in his head, but he struggles to find the right moment to actually start talking.
Are you a control freak or do you always think that you’ll manage somehow?
If you are living abroad, mastering the local language will really help you integrate and get the most out of your new home, but a new language is just one part of the expat lifestyle. Check out InterNations for community, networking, support and events for expats.
What kind of language learner are you?
Are you an introvert control freak with a lot of energy in the morning?
Are you an extrovert observer night owl, with a relaxed attitude towards foreign languages?
Are you a control freak who is obsessed with a new language?
It doesn’t really matter: all personalities have positive qualities, but you can enhance them only if you understand what your preferences are.
You shouldn’t look for the one right method to learn a language, but rather the method that you prefer, because this will be the one that works for you!
We have one tip for all of you:
Sometimes it might be frustrating to go into a class with 20 other people – we have different needs, attitudes, preferences, learning times and methods. With Babbel, you can avoid most of these frustrations. You’ll be able to learn where, when and for as long as you like: you decide what’s your favorite way of learning and tailor-make your own method, focusing on the lessons that interest you the most, the ones that are useful and relevant and that you can immediately put into practice.
Just stop for a second before starting, try to focus on your preferences and understand what kind of language learner you are.