2. It’s not going to happen overnight – Learning a foreign language is a long term commitment. It is a good idea to set short range goals but you must think long term.
3. Open your mind wide – Among all the aspects involved in the process, perhaps the most important is the learner’s attitude toward the language. Have an open mind and try to see any encounter with the language as an opportunity. Be inquisitive, ask questions. One very simple step is to set the interface language of your communication devices (computers, cell phones) to your target language. In case of English in Brazil, the language is pretty much everywhere. It is very likely that in your everyday commute you’ll see lots of English words and expressions in billboards, signs, even on people’s clothing.
4. Expose yourself – Don’t hold back. Don’t miss any chances to interact with the language. If you are around a foreigner visiting the country, go ahead and speak to them. If emails have to be read and written in English at work, go for it. When travelling abroad with a friend who speaks more than you do, don’t let them be your voice, go ahead and order your own food. These are great opportunities – they’re like free lessons. It is natural that you may feel a bit uncomfortable to do so in a language you don’t master yet, but think that the experience is only going to help you get there.
5. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes – mistakes can be a good way to learn, of course as long as you somehow realize them and find out the right way. In addition, you as a non-native speaker are not expected to show the level of complexity and correctness as that of a native. In most cases, native English speakers are well used to dealing with people from the most diverse language backgrounds and tend to be quite tolerant with mistakes.
6. Open up your ears – Each language has a dominant range of frequency. Our ears adapt to the frequencies of our mother tongue in order to hear more efficiently. There lies in part the difficulty we often have in understanding what is being said in a foreign language. I simple way to verify this is to watch a movie with and without subtitles and analyze how much you understand. When we think we don’t understand what someone says, more often than not, it is not a matter of knowing the words but the simple fact that our ears are not used to that language’s specific frequencies. If you are in an English speaking country, for instance, your ears are exposed to the language most of the time and this is one of the reasons why immersion programs accelerate the language acquisition process. Well, if this is not your case, you somehow have to get your ears exposed to the language. This means lots of listening.
7. Practice makes perfect – The principle is remarkably simple. The more you do something, the better you get at it. This is especially true for your writing and speaking skills. Practice, practice, practice, and then more practice.
The success of your language acquisition project will likely depend on several factors. These three seem to have a bigger impact: your natural ability to learn a second language, or the absence of it; the attitude you have toward the language and the learning process; and having a clear plan to help you get where you want.