Never Satisfied with Your Language Skills?
Ever since I started learning another language, I’ve always had a feeling of never being ‘good enough’ at it.
I’m sure I’m not alone.
It’s a feeling of never being satisfied with my skills or abilities to communicate exactly the way want to. As learners, we are hard on ourselves. We are our own biggest critics. Always, focusing on all of our mistakes.
The focus is on trying to fill the gap between where you are now and this dream of speaking perfectly… A time and a place where you know exactly what to say at the right time. With no hesitation, no doubt.
Or rather, we won’t be satisfied until we speak this new language the way we speak in our native language.
Focusing on the Wrong Things
When I listen to native speakers talking, I think… “Wow, I have a lot to learn. I cannot speak like that.”
Why am I comparing myself to a native speaker?
I realized that this doubt that I have in my own skills comes from this: Native speakers know who to say things 1000 different ways. I only know how to say it a few different ways.
Think about that for a minute. It makes a lot of sense about where this feeling of ‘doubt’ comes from…
When I say something. I feel like I am not very good because I haven’t mastered every possible way I could say the sentence in the language yet. I feel restricted to the 2 or 3 ways I can express the thought.
My ‘version’ of the sentence feels like a translation from my native language more than a way a native speaker would say the same thing. My version is 100% correct and a native speaker will tell me that I don’t have any errors. The native speaker could have chosen to say the sentence in the same way I did…
Why am I doubting my skills??
The REAL purpose of learning a language, is to be able to communicate. Connecting and talking with other people. I am certainly able to do that. Right now, I am living in a country that speaks the language I am learning.
Frequently, I hear native speakers complimenting me by saying, “Your Spanish is really good!” My answer, “Thanks, but I still have a lot to learn.”
What a way to respond to a compliment! That’s horrible.
This could have been a positive thing for my confidence AND the person giving the compliment if I said the truth: “Thanks. I’ve actually been working at it pretty hard for a long time.”
Focusing on the Progress You’ve Made
I know my skills aren’t that bad, really. Especially when I think about how far I’ve come in the language.
Looking back at the first conversation I ever had… what a disaster. I felt like I couldn’t use the words and grammar I had learned. It also felt like I had to test every word to see if it made sense to the native speaker.
My listening skills used to be horrible! It was so frustrating not being able to understand a person speaking. I hated getting caught when I didn’t understand someone because I didn’t hear what they said. It was really embarrassing.
After applying some techniques and working to improve my listening, I can now enjoy watching movies without subtitles and I understand people when they are talking to me almost perfectly.
I used to struggle to read a newspaper article, now I can understand it very well without a dictionary. There are still words I don’t know, but I can now figure things out because I understand enough of the context.
When I think about these situations, I realize that I shouldn’t feel like I am ‘not good enough’ yet. It gives me a sense of pride with the skills that I have developed.
Instead of giving ourselves the recognition we deserve for learning a foreign language and enjoying how much we have learned in the language; we focus on how much more we have to learn in order to be a master of the language. That sounds like a mindset that will result in failure.
And it is.
The Real Struggle
My self-confidence towards my skills in the language I’m learning could use a bit of attention. Lately, I’ve been feeling frustrated that I can’t say things (in Spanish) the exact way that I want to.
Instead of focusing on how I can’t say everything with the same ease I can in English… and feeling disappointed.
I am going to focus on the fact that I can say what I want to say and the other person knows what I am trying to say. That is an accomplishment and anyone learning a language should be proud that they have learned enough to be able to communicate successfully.
There are always going to be new things to learn about this language. There’s no doubt that this will be the case.
Heck, I am still learning things about English, my native language. I learn new things about grammar, new vocabulary and new slang terms that are evolving constantly.
Being proud of what you have learned already will not stop you from continuing your journey to be better and better every day. Having the confidence to use what you know in the best way you can to communicate is the goal, not perfection.
Leave a comment for me below about this article. Do you have this struggle as well?
Please share 🙂