Updated: Dec 18, 2018
Learning a language can lift your confidence to new heights.
There are many of us who claim we simply do not have the confidence to learn another language when actually, even gaining a small level of ability in another language can give us a great amount of confidence in a number of different areas. In this article we explore just some of the ways language learning can lift your confidence levels to new heights.
“We need the confidence to begin, the confidence to continue and then the confidence will come back to us tenfold.”
Joining a language course can help us to conquer a number of our fears and help us gain confidence in ourselves and our ability to do things we never knew we could.
Make new connections
In a world sometimes dictated by routine, where we get up each day and go to the same place to work beside the same people doing the same tasks as we did the day before and the day before that and so on, it can be difficult to meet new people. Moreover, when we get so used to communicating with the same set of people, it can become difficult to meet new ones and to know what to say when we do. Small talk is a technique some of us just don't possess.Joining a language course provides an opportunity to meet people we may never normally have had the opportunity to meet and particularly if this course is online and therefore accessible from anywhere. Classmates may potentially be people who socialise in very different spaces, come from very different backgrounds, who do not work in our same domain, indeed who maybe do not even live on our same continent. Yet, joining an online course can bring us together, give us a common goal, a reason to talk and an excuse to connect.
Overcome stage fright
Speaking in front of others can be paralysing for some. We all remember having to do presentations at school or at the office, all eyes on us and we are shaking inside. This can sometimes be the same fear we harbour when we attempt to speak a foreign language, nervous our pronunciation is bad, we can't find the right word we needed and we can't remember the grammar rule. Being involved in an interactive language course that asks us to record our speaking and communicate with others can help us to overcome those fears. In the classroom, everyone is in the same boat, each with their own struggles but all aiming for the same language learning goal. In a supportive environment where everyone strives to improve, we can help each other and gain the confidence we need to go out into the world and use our language skills.
Say what you think
When we embark on language courses, we are often asked to talk about topics we might not always have the chance to talk about in our everyday lives. These might be topics about life in general, the environment, international relations, travel and the future, or about us and our likes, dislikes, stories and hopes. Whatever the topic, we are asked to describe, explain and evaluate, to tell others what we think and believe and why. In doing this, it gives us a chance to really consider our position on things, where we stand in the world and with whom we affiliate ourselves. It can be a great opportunity to reflect and remember what we believe and why we believe it, and that gives us the confidence of our convictions.
Find a new you
Many research studies have shown that we develop and present slightly different personalities when we use different languages. In a sense, learning a new language is like gaining a new voice and one which you may choose to use differently to the one you use in your first language. There are those who say they are able to express different emotions in different languages owing to the nuances in vocabularies, grammar and intonation. For example, I find I'm able to be angry in Italian in a way I can't be in English whilst German noun composition offers me a flexibility in poetry writing that French simply cannot. If you are shy in your first language, perhaps this is your chance to break out of your shell in a second. Or vice versa, perhaps the extrovert in you wants to take a back seat in this next language. Whatever you choose, the new language may give you the confidence and space to make that change or to begin afresh.
Travel in comfort
I remember the feeling I had when I first went to China and looked around at the text everywhere and felt for the first time in my life truly lost. We don't realise the familiarity and the sense of ease we often gain from recognising the script and the language around us until we find ourselves in a situation where the language is entirely unknown. In that situation, I couldn't even say I was lost in translation because there was quite literally nothing familiar for me to hook onto. Learning even a small amount of vocabulary, or what people call 'language to get by' can give an immense sense of relief and comfort when travelling. If we have a good command of a language, indeed this goes further and we can gain a sense of confidence in the new country we are exploring. Of course, being able to speak with people in that place can give us an entirely different experience and open our eyes to the culture, the food, the architecture and the ambiance in a way that may not be possible if we do not. Language is a key when we travel to new places, a key to unlock experiences not accessible without it. It is also the key to our confidence there, to help us to lift our eyes to look around us, to interact and to truly see and get to know the treasures of the place we find before us.
It is true we need to find that little bit of confidence inside us to begin the language learning journey, but once we begin and we gain the confidence to continue, that confidence will come back to us tenfold.