Language-learning barriers – Dealing with criticism

Learning a foreign language can be a very exciting and rewarding experience. Still, as in any process, there are some challenges we must learn to overcome.

Language-learning barriers - Dealing with criticism
Whether it be from a teacher, a fellow student or from a native speaker of the language we are trying to master, criticism can be hard medicine to swallow. After all, the definition of the word itself implies concepts such as disapproval and judgment, which have negative connotations; so, it is only natural to feel a little uneasy when, for example, somebody tells you that your accent could be better or that you should brush up on those basic grammar structures.

Nevertheless, criticism is a part of everyday life and given that the progress made in learning another language is highly influenced by our self confidence, it is important to find healthy ways to rise to the occasion and handle criticism appropriately.

On that note, I would like to share a few tips on how to manage criticism more efficiently 🙂

• (When faced with first hand criticism) Delay your reaction: If you tend to react emotionally, take a deep breath before you decide what you are going to say. Reacting rashly by attacking your critic or aggressively defending your point of view won’t do you any good. However, if you are expected to reply to this criticism, try to remain calm and buy some time to:

Consider the source: As you know, not all criticism has to be negative. A piece of constructive criticism brings an opportunity to grow and improve, and should therefore be seen as a helpful piece of advice. Maybe you DO need to have a second look at that vocabulary list after all! In the end, the benefits of doing so will be all yours 🙂 However, human nature can be tricky. Non-constructive criticism should be viewed as a reflection of the critic and not of yourself. Does this person have your best interest in mind? Do you respect this person’s opinion? If so, it might be worth taking a second look at what is being said!

Validate the message: Have other people made the same observation before? Do you think there is some truth in what they are saying? Identify the patterns and act accordingly. Again, this is just another opportunity for you to get ahead in your learning process 😉

Get to know yourself: If you find dealing with these kinds of really difficult, take a moment to reflect and understand what is really going on. People are wired to validate what they believe is true, even if this so-called truth is unpleasant. Therefore, if someone believes that their spelling is terrible, he or she will look for validation in the real world; and will most likely find it, even if they need to twist the meaning of other people’s words to achieve it. Figuring out the root of your beliefs can shed some light on what is really going on and help you deal with criticism better. Chances are, you are taking things too personally!

Accept that you are not perfect: The truth is, nobody is perfect and there will always be some room for improvement. Most likely, you will meet someone who has better memory for vocabulary than you, or someone who understands grammar structures better. It’s just a matter of statistics.

Don’t base your opinion of the progress you have made on one piece of criticism. One bad opinion doesn’t define your skills. In the end, criticism is in the eyes of the beholder, and only you have the power to validate it in your eyes. So handle one-time criticism individually and make changes based on what YOU think is better for your language learning process.

I hope these tips have been useful 🙂 What do you do to make criticism “go down” easier? Share your ideas below!
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