Why tough love is the best way to learn a new language

Pic_Sofia2While growing up in Sweden, I had a teacher who told me that one day the most powerful tool you could have would be language skills – looking around me today, I realize that she was right.

The world is getting smaller and countries, people and cultures are more connected with each other than ever before.

New Doors & Opportunities

Because of the many business connections New Zealand has with China and Japan, people with language skills in Mandarin and Japanese are highly sought after in the workplace.

But speaking a foreign language isn’t only beneficial for an impressive CV, it brings opportunities and opens doors in so many other areas of your life.

For me, by becoming fluent in English I was able to meet the love of my life, reach out to millions of people through my travel blog, and connect with people from all over the world during my travels.

Over the years, I’ve studied many different languages, and while we all have different ways of learning a new language, what has worked best for me is “tough love”…

Tough Love

My first German language experience was a very extreme one: I spoke absolutely no German at all, and had decided to spend the winter season in a tiny village called Scuol in the Swiss alps.

Article3-3When I arrived it quickly dawned on me that nobody in the village spoke even the slightest bit of English.

Instead, German was their second language, while their first language was Romansch, a rare language spoken by only 0.9% of the Swiss people.

Without knowing it, I had put myself in a situation where I was simply forced to learn to speak German to get by, and while it was scary at first, it actually made me learn quicker.

When there was no way around it, when nobody could understand me in any other language, I was forced to pay attention and try to learn the language.

Pretty soon, I became more confident when I spoke, especially when I realized that nobody cared if I made mistakes, as long as I got my point across.

I remember when I had my first 10 minute conversation in German – afterwards, I was over the moon, and so excited to have been able to understand and speak with someone for so long.

For me it’s those small things that make learning a new language so rewarding, and it has really enhanced my experiences when traveling through German speaking countries.

From spending 3 months in Switzerland, 3 months in Garmisch-Partenkirchen and two months in Berlin – being able to speak and practice the local language has brought so many great interactions and conversations with locals.

During the past month of studying, the Rosetta Stone course has really helped me put the pieces of the puzzle in the right place and sped up my progress a lot.

The combination of the course and being surrounded by the language everywhere I go has made a huge difference.

The great thing about spending time in places where most locals don’t speak much English is that you finally get a chance to push yourself beyond what you think you’re capable of and practice what you’ve learned.

I know people who have been living in Berlin for years without learning the language because they simply never needed to – and they probably missed out on a lot of opportunities and experiences because of that.

The Process …

In my opinion, the best way to learn a language is to combine a professional course like Rosetta Stone while at the same time going to a place where your only option is to speak the language you’re trying to learn.

That way you will be able to put all the things you learn from the course into practice on a daily basis.

Being Swedish and having a boyfriend from New Zealand, I’ve seen first-hand how difficult it is in Sweden to learn the language.

Most Swedes speak English fluently, so as soon as they realize you don’t speak Swedish, they switch to English to make it easier for you.

In Sweden we call that a “bear hug” (Swedes have a lot of proverbs!) – it means that you help someone to the point that it actually ends up hurting them.

So, when it comes to learning a language, tough love is the best way to learn, and trying your hardest not to resolve to speaking English when things get a little tricky.

If you’re really passionate about learning a language, go to a country where they speak it and bring your Rosetta Stone course with you, since the best way to learn is to completely immerse yourself in the language.

When the language is everywhere, from the TV in your home to the supermarket and cafes outside, you will pick it up quicker than you think, especially when you study the course every day!



Sofia von Porat runs the travel blog AsWeTravel, which is sharing travel tips, videos, guides and inspiration from around the world - she also runs EuropeTravelr a blog focused purely on European travel.

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