Some people find it easy to pick up a foreign language,
while others find the task almost impossible. I guess Iím somewhere in
between, though I would never say that learning Chinese has been easy. I
have taught English in China for six years, and Iíve also invested three
years in studying Chinese. While I am looking forward to returning to the
teacherís side of the desk next year, I am also grateful for the progress
Kunming Teachersí College has helped me make as a Chinese language
When I first stepped into a Chinese classroom, I knew
absolutely nothing about Chinese; as you might say: ď八字还没一丿Ē.
(I didnít even know how to say ďhelloĒ!) But my teachers were patient and
I studied hard. Furthermore, my friends (both foreign and Chinese) let me
practice using what I was learning. I never got to a level where I made no
mistakes, but in time I got over my fear of making mistakes and began to
Students ask me what they can do to improve their English.
I often say that the biggest thing that keeps them from speaking English
well is their own fear. Fear is natural. We are afraid that we will look
stupid in front of our classmates. We get anxious when making mistakes and
struggling to create simple sentences in a foreign language. It makes us
feel like little children instead of the intelligent young adults that we
know we are.
But to move forward in a foreign language, we must conquer
our fear. Just remember that everyone makes mistakes, especially when
learning a language. You made mistakes in your mother-tongue when you were
a child, and you will make mistakes as you learn a new language. And so
will your friends. True friends will not laugh at you when you have
problems, but friends who study a language together can often laugh
together as they all struggle with strange sounds and sentence patterns.
Mistakes donít mean that you are stupid, they mean that you are learning,
which actually makes you smarter. So, donít worry about your mistakes, or
about what your classmates think. If the person you are talking to
understands what you mean, then you are communicating successfully!
Therefore, work hard and set aside your fears. Take
advantage of every opportunity you can find to speak and listen to your
new language. Go to English Corners, watch films in English, sing English
songs, and ask your classmates to speak to you (at least sometimes) in
English. Every step you take will help you conquer your fears and move you
further down the road toward proficiency in a foreign language.