We sweat our guts out learning languages and try so hard to cover our notebooks in writings of grammar rules and exceptions in long tables that sometimes we forget the goal of it. We learn language to communicate efficiently, to understand and be understood in real life and to survive in a different cultural field.
Our language education system in Russia has always been focused on theory and grammar. It could be explained by the conditions our grandparents and parents used to live in: The Iron Curtain and lack of opportunities to apply your knowledge in real life. Now the times have changed – globalization phenomenon has reached the most distant corners of the Earth. What do we have now? In Russia the language education market is one of the most developing markets now as people tend to travel more and the number of business connections is constantly increasing. The languages schools mushroom out and competition is harsh. Not so long ago people were obsessed with American English with its drawling accent and now Great Britain and Queen’s English are in fashion. So the more native speakers you have at the school the more prestigious it is considered and people are ready to splash out money for their private lessons. But, guys, let’s be realistic! The people you will have to communicate with (whether it’s a trip or a business meeting) are most likely to be from another country with its peculiar accent. Great Britain has population of only 62 million people and most of them are the Northern Irish, the Scottish and the Welsh with their accent not understandable even for the English people. And you will hardly have the chance to speak Queen’s English in London where mostly immigrants live – more chances to speak Cockney I would say.
So, Tip 1. Try to communicate with people from as many countries as possible. Join local international communities, youth organisations, make pen- and skypefriends.
Come on, girls, I watched Downton Abbey and King’s Speech to drool over British accent too but if you learn how to understand Indian, Australian and Scottish accents you will never get in an awkward situation. No surprise that the teacher from Saudi Arabia had more success at our partner school after all than the teacher from the USA.
Tip 2. If you have been learning a language for years and now you have the chance to speak it abroad and you feel that your head is empty. You have forgotten everything and you think all the work you have done was in vain. Don’t worry! It’s normal and everyone has the same problem. The less worried you are about that the faster you will start to speak.
When I finally arrived in London – the city I had been dreaming over for years – and couldn’t say «Thank you» with my Advanced English at the passport control I felt the same. After a while you will adapt to the environment. Trust your subconsciousness: it has all the information you have learnt although it is waiting for the right moment to give it. When you just stress out about new environment it blocks out everything. But I have seen cases when people panicked and urgent reaction was needed and they started to speak the language.
Tip 3. Don’t be a perfectionist. Learn one thing – you will never sound exactly like the native speaker! So relax and try to communicate no matter which level of the language you have.
People will appreciate you try to speak their local language because it’s a sign of politeness and good manners. They will try to help you even if you don’t know something and no one will judge you. You will never learn a language until you try to speak it!
Tip 4. Be open to the whole world! Don’t let stereotypes rule your mind. Try to learn more about cultures in reality so that you will make friends all over the world more easily.
So these are basic tips you’d better keep in mind and my last tip would be: have fun not only learning languages but also using them!