Learning a new language

Written by Leny Grott

When you decide to move to another country (I won’t describe the many reasons behind this life-changing decision) one of the biggest challenges is to learn to communicate. Learning a new language is not easy when you are an adult.

At the time my husband and I moved to the US, neither one of us could speak English, it was frustrating.  We were embarrassed to say anything, we thought people would make fun of us, we didn’t have time or extra funds to take English lessons. We had to start working as soon as possible.

I was a preschool teacher in my home country and hoped to continue this work in my new country. I taught children from 0 to 6 years old. My days were filled with communication, talking, reading books, explaining and answering many questions. Can you imagine doing all these in a language you don’t know, with children who are learning how to talk?   Yes, it was an experience. I cried every night because nobody understood me, neither children nor coworkers.  Time went by and I just repeated what other teachers said and I read many children’s books. The pictures helped me comprehend the words and they made it easy for me to grasp the meaning.

Children’s books were my allies while I was learning English.  They improved my vocabulary, they taught me about new places, important holidays, science experiments and even baking.  The most important thing was that I was learning to communicate and express my feelings in a different language.  Children’s literature became a precious and most important tool.

Little by little I began to gain confidence, I received compliments but I also received very mean comments about my pronunciation. I did not allow those comments to become stumbling blocks in my learning.

Picture books are not only for children! 

These short stories with their simple words and colorful illustrations will bring a smile to your face, warm your heart and yes, they will help you learn a new language.

What did I do to learn English?

  • I read countless children’s books.
  • Everything I read, watched and listened to was in English, including cellphone settings, movies, radio, books etc.
  • I was not afraid to make mistakes.
  • I asked my colleagues to please let me know if I was making mistakes.
  • I tried my best to think and feel in English.
  • I accepted that my pronunciation would not be the same as that of a native English speaker. 
  • I understood that my accent was part of my personality and made me unique.

When you decide or need to learn a new language, grammar is not enough.  Learning about the culture, gastronomy, traditions and holidays will help you understand the language. In order to become a contributing member of any society it is imperative to learn the language, no matter where you are.

Make the learning process part of your routine, every moment is an opportunity to learn something new.  If you hear a word you have never heard before or a phrase you don’t understand, ask yourself how would you say it and in what context in your own language.  Soon, these words and phrases will be part of your everyday vocabulary.

Be patient and don’t give up. You can do it!!

Here are two of my favorite books, enjoy them.

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