7 effective ways to overcome the language barrier

Overcoming the language barrier does not mean achievement of fluency of speech, and then sudden acquisition of the super ability to speak perfectly.

Overcoming the language barrier means overcoming an initial fear. At first, it is very important to have the courage to talk - even in some short small talks. The initial goal when learning a new language should be to communicate in a foreign language, regardless of your level of proficiency.

So how do you do it? How do you learn to let go of fear and overcome the barrier to your own progress?

1. Simplify

Try to “get to the point” whenever you explain someone something. For example, you could say to someone, "can you take my picture?" Or you can simplify your thought to one word "photo?" The second one is much easier to understand, especially if someone is not a native speaker. If you express yourself more easily, be it in your own language or a foreign language, you are much more likely to achieve the desirable result.

2. Write it down

At the beginning of the learning process, a lot of people have difficulty understanding and adapting words on the fly. If someone says you time or name of street/building , and all you manage to hear is a rambling set of words - write it down! You can always politely ask your companion to repeat the information. You will have the opportunity to clarify what you have heard and check it out by searching on the Internet.  

3. Speak slowly and clearly

We all sometimes want to sound like a native speaker, but due to the fact that we are outside the English-speaking environment, it is not that easy to accomplish. It's better to say words in clear and accurate way than risk not being legible. At first avoid slang and idioms. Do not use them in English while speaking to a native speaker of another language, and do not try to translate them literally into another language. Of course, you may get lucky and hit the target, but another time you risk being embarrassed.

4. Do not avoid spontaneous conversations

Some people may be afraid to accidentally enter a conversation in a new language. Anyway, it's worth a try. The more you speak a language, the easier it becomes for you to learn it. If you have the opportunity to practice your skills, feel free to do so. We all have an obsessive fear of making mistakes and we will not be understood in result. It doesn't matter! Making mistakes and having an accent is part of the learning process.

Think about it: when you meet a foreigner who speaks in your language, what do you do? Do you point at them with your finger? Yell at them? Tell them how flawed their language skills are? Probably not. You appreciate their efforts. You're probably impressed with how well they speak your language. So let yourself speak when you have the chance. It will only help you in the long term.

5. Clarify

Nobody likes to be confused, but if somebody tries to have a conversation with you, they probably want you to understand them. Otherwise, they won't waste their time on you. If you don't understand something, ask them to repeat it for you once again, or ask them to speak more slowly. If you still don't understand, let them know. The person you are talking to will most likely change the language and try to express his or her viewpoint differently.

Don't be shy. It'll be obvious to the person you're talking to that you're not a native speaker. You will not be spoken to the same way as a native speaker.

6. Learn and repeat

Of course, while learning the language we follow the logic of "Repetition is the mother of teaching", but nobody canceled the learning of new things. Therefore, it is very important to make a learning plan for the different aspects of the language and to move along with baby steps. Even if something is not settling in your memory, you should go back 1 or 2 steps back to correct any misunderstanding.

7. Study with several people. Organize group sessions

"I don't understand, and who do I ask now?" - how often did you ask this question when you learn the language on your own? If you are bored and have a hard time fighting the language barrier alone, you can find like-minded people and overcome difficulties together. Group lessons do wonders for your progress. After all, being an active and attentive listener is a very important quality that is developed in group lessons. 

Anastasia Usova,
methodologist at the Polygled Speaking Club

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