Having a friend by your side as you learn a language is the best (and most fun) way to succeed.
Do you know the Hank Williams classic “I’m so lonesome I could cry”?
Studying a language can be a bit like that — especially when you’re learning on your own.
It’s weird when you think about it.
Languages are social. They exist so we can communicate.
So how do language learners end up so isolated?
Now don’t get me wrong. There are a ton of advantages to self-study.
I’m an independent language learner, and I’ve found I can learn much faster and smarter on my own compared to in a classroom. I can choose the study tools and courses that work for me. I can learn at my own pace, and focus on the words and phrases I need to communicate.
But if you cut out community completely, you miss out on a ton.
Let me tell you a story.
I run a community called the Add1Challenge — where language learners go from zero to having a 15-minute conversation in their target language after just 90 days.
It never ceases to amaze me what people achieve in the Add1Challenge… and to me the “magic” of the challenge is the power of community, and the friends people make when they join Add1.
A short time back, one of our Add1Challengers had fallen off the wagon. She hadn’t kept up her daily study sessions for a few days… and felt like quitting. Reaching that 15 minute conversation felt impossible.
She was about to quit, but rather than slip away silently, she shared how she was feeling with the rest of the community.
Here’s what she said:
And then something amazing happened.
Comments, support, and suggestions started coming in. They ranged from “I totally get what you’re feeling right now” to practical advice for how to get through the lull and rediscover her mojo.
Several learners even volunteered their time and offered to do exchanges with her to help her get back into the rhythm of her studies.
Here are just a few of the replies she received:
You’re Not Alone — It's Okay to Be Imperfect
When you’re learning a language, it’s all too easy just to share your successes. We want other people to think that we’re amazing and to be impressed by what we’ve accomplished. But those successes ride on the backs of our struggles and our failures. Those things are as much a part of the process, so they’re worth sharing, too.
Yet when we struggle, we often keep what we’re going through to ourselves. We’re afraid we’ll be judged, that there’s something wrong with us, or that we’ll be laughed at. And even though the chances of any of those things happening a slim, we’re still not open to sharing just on the off chance that our fears will be proven right.
In the Add1Challenge, we aim to create a safe place for learners to make new friendships and truly share what they’re experiencing – the good and the bad. And when challengers find the courage to share their struggles, the positive response is overwhelming.
It’s okay to be imperfect.
And it’s okay if other people know that you make mistakes and that things aren’t always easy for you.
Here are just a few reasons it’s so good to have a friend when you’re having difficulty:
1. You Can Talk it Out
When you share your struggles with others, finding a resolution becomes a collaborative effort. And when that brainstorming happens, there’s a good chance you’ll land on an idea that works for you.
Sharing what’s holding you back in a group like the Add1Challenge can be particularly productive because those listening are fellow language learners. They’ve likely been where you are. Their advice will come from that shared experience.
2. You Avoid Meltdown
Trying to do everything on your own is a formula for burnout — especially if you’re like me and you study intensively.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it or to share when you’re having a rough time. If you keep it all in and try to deal with it on your own, you could very easily set yourself up for a complete meltdown.
So many language learners quit because they hit a wall. Friends are the ones who will keep you going, even when the going gets tough.
3. You’ll See What a Beautiful Human Being You Really Are
We’re all human. We all make mistakes and experience our share of peaks and valleys.
We tend to be our own worst critics and we’re much harder on ourselves than anyone else would ever be. In some ways, this can be a positive thing. It pushes us to do better and to be better. But other times, it’s unnecessary.
When you look at other language learners, it’s easy to think that they’re so much better than you. That they’re doing something right and you’re not. Or that you aren’t good enough.
But what you might fail to see is that those other learners are looking back at you thinking the same thing.
A good amount of the time, you’ll be the one giving support — and you’ll discover just how much you have to give.
4. You Learn that You Can’t Do it All Yourself
When you’ve got friends who’ve got your back, you’ll realise that it’s better when you’re working together. You’ll also see that you couldn’t have done it on your own.
Drop your high expectations of yourself and embrace your need for others. We’re all interdependent. It’s liberating to know that.
5. You’ll Feel More Connected
Sharing your struggles makes you vulnerable. It’s scary!
But that means there’s a good chance you aren’t the only one holding back. When you take the initiative and talk about the struggles you’re experiencing, you not only build your own confidence but you also show others that it’s okay to do the same.
And you share, you’ll find that others open up and share their struggles in return.
Building true friendships by supporting others (in good times and in struggles) is a wonderful way to feel more connected.
A Problem Shared is a Problem Halved
There’s an old adage: “a problem shared is a problem halved”. And when you share with a group of hundreds of other learners, then your problems aren’t just halved — they become tiny!
So why not join a community where you’re encouraged to share?
If you’re interested in joining the Add1Challenge community and getting the chance to work alongside an incredible, supportive community of language learners, then follow this link to find out more.
And finally... One of the best ways to learn a new language is with podcasts. Read more about how to use podcasts to learn a language.