3 things I wish I knew when I started language learning

Bree here. Today I’m going to do something a bit different, but I hope you’ll hang with me.

Have you ever seen one of these prompts on social media? It looks something like this:

If you could send a letter back in time and tell your past self 3 things, what would they be?

What would I tell my past self about language learning if I had the chance?

So, I sat down, wrote that letter, and now I’m posting it here for you…

Full warning: it’s nerdy as heck. (I watch too much Doctor Who, ok?)

My letter to my past self...

Hey Bree,

Bree here, don’t freak out. There’s a rip in the time-space continuum just big enough to slide an envelope through. While I should tell you to look into Bitcoin or something, instead, I’m going to give you some language-learning advice. (But also, do look into Bitcoin.)

It looks like I’ll only have time to warn you about 3 things because the rip in space-time is shrinking as I write this.

Stop worrying. You made the right call switching to immersion learning.

I know you’ve just started learning Spanish after failing to learn tons of other languages. You’re worried about whether immersion actually works or if it’s just a bunch of overhyped nonsense like everything else you tried.

I want to assure you that it does work. Soon, you’ll be reading Spanish books with ease and listening to Spanish audiobooks (while actually understanding what’s going on).

Immersion is basically magic, so just let go of your anxiety, relax, and trust the process.

Don’t chase perfection!

Seriously. You’ll never be perfect, and that’s ok.

It’s true that speaking practice in the beginning stages won’t make you fluent (that’s what immersion is for), but don’t let that stop you from having fun in the language. Get out there, say hi to people, and make some friends!

Don’t let your perfectionist tendencies keep you from enjoying the language. I regret not making friends in my target language sooner. I was so worried about what people would think of me if I made a mistake that I feared using the language.

The truth is, nobody cares about your mistakes except for YOU!

Track your time!

I know, I know, this comes as a shock to you — I am you, after all. You think the idea of time tracking seems tedious and pointless. However, let me tell you, after you put a few years into Spanish, one of your BIGGEST regrets will be NOT tracking your time.

Time tracking is one of the best ways to see how much time you actually spend in the language. When you feel like you’re stuck, you can look back on your time spent in the language and feel confident that each hour you’ve spent helped you get an hour closer to your fluency goal.

In fact, when you begin studying Portuguese (yeah, that happens…), the first thing you’ll do is set up a time tracker.

If you’re still intimidated by the idea of time tracking, here’s a video from the future that your friend Ben made to help you out. It’s painless, and it’s something you’ll learn to enjoy. So DO IT!

Watch time tracking video:

Looks like the rip in space-time is almost completely closed, so I need to wrap it up here. I’d say until next time, but I’m pretty sure opportunities like this are once in a lifetime so… bye!

Back to the present…

Thanks for letting me get that out of my system! While my past self will never actually get to see this letter, it was really cathartic to write, and I hope you find it useful.

If you had the opportunity, what would you tell your past self about language learning? Would it look similar to my advice? Or would it be about something else entirely? Reply in the comments below to let me know!

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