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Leaving out the few whose brains are made for language, the rest need to take a good hard look in the mirror and chill out!!! Whatever you are doing is a million times better than doing nothing and it is good for your brain, like a vitamin or yoga. You don’t go to yoga classes to become a Yogi, you go because it gives you fitness and makes you feel good. Language learning is similar, you do it for lots of reasons but becoming fluent is too big a goal and tends to hold you back.

Language learning is good for your brain. The process of language acquisition is a whole brain learning activity, it offers your brain the opportunity to flex its proverbial muscle and grow. I know you were told that we only a certain number of brain cells in a lifetime and we are constantly killing them by having fun. This was a belief at one point, which we now know is false. When you push it, it will grow. It grows by making new neuron connections; language and math learning are hands down the most efficient methods of making this happen.

Why can language learning seem so daunting? It is because it is a whole brain activity. You can learn verbs and vocabulary but when someone talks to you or you need to say something, you blank. This is because you need the new information to be used holistically. Language accesses all your knowledge and knowhow to work. When you listen or read your brain throws out images, thoughts and memories in order to make sense of what is happening. This is accomplished by calming down, laughing and not taking yourself or the current situation so seriously. The best thing you can do is try to speak and listen to everyone, especially when the topic is not really important, that way you are in a mode that allows you to access what you do know.

Keep it simple. Say what you can say, not what you want to say; simplify your language to the level you are in. You will sound like a caveman in the beginning and that is exactly what you are supposed to sound like In the first steps of learning. You have no need to conjugate and you have no need to get it right. It is about giving it a try, chewing on the new sounds you need to make and settling into the being a fool a better part of the time. Try to remember you spent 2 years as a child listening and trying out words before you could formulate sentences.

Stress is the killer, you stress and you blank. When this happens you are feeling your brain trying to level up to whole brain thinking, this can be frustrating and at times maddening but if you never push your noggin to do this it never will. The more you ask and intend for holistic learning and thinking to occur, the closer you get to it happening. You’ll know when it working when you have that “aha” moment we all strive for. Be kind to yourself and others as they have the courage to try something outside their comfort zone. Most importantly realize that the Tico you jabber English to is feeling the same stress you feel when trying out Spanish. Relax and play and use translation apps when you need to communicate something important.

Language learning should be fun, engaging and interesting, if it isn’t you are wasting your time. Take classes, play Duolingo, watch TV , learn verbs and vocabulary, pick up a dual language newspaper and just keep trying until each part of the language comes together naturally. You should engage in Language study at least 20 minutes a day and each day you should vary the activity and it should always be engaging. We don’t learn when not engaged. It should be a constant process of pushing yourself and laughing at your mistakes, then getting up and trying again. It should be a lifelong process and a change in mindset not something that will happen overnight or miraculously. Lucky for you, you are in the right place at the right time!

Sylvia Monge owns Spanish for Expats, a tutoring and translation service (spanishforexpatscr.com ), and thinks the brain is ridiculously cool. Join one of her classes and learn Spanish while realizing your potential.

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