GUEST POST: Finding motivation in language learning – Todd Neve
Aug24

GUEST POST: Finding motivation in language learning – Todd Neve

Finding motivation in language learning Todd Neve Of course we would all love to speak another language. But few are willing to commit the time to learn it. Even less are able to stay motivated for the time and effort it takes to become fluent. My own language journey started in school, like everyone else’s. And like almost everyone around me, I bitterly despised those French classes. It felt like I was being forced to learn what I couldn’t possibly hope to achieve without living in France for twenty years. It was not until I was in my gap year that I started to learn another language again: this time, Spanish – with a fresh attitude. Then earlier this year, with the generous help of the Walter Mangold trust fund, I was able to travel to Madrid on exchange and make the leap to fluency. So what was the difference this time? Truthfully, I was not incapable of learning a language. I just hadn’t applied myself. The difference was all about my level of motivation. So here is my practical guide to finding your motivation and staying motivated. An important first step to take is to truly convince yourself that speaking another language is possible. Reach out to someone who was in a similar situation and successfully learnt to speak a new language. It’s not enough to hear or read about a stranger’s experiences. For me this involved seeing friends (including Dan) return from exchange, fluent in other languages. Without someone to inspire you, you’ll always find an excuse to give up. The next step is to clearly define your reasons for learning the language. From my experience in sport, athletes will often train the hardest when improvement will bring the opportunity to travel to cool places and most importantly meet exciting, new people. How can speaking the language make your life more exciting? Start with clear reasons that inspire you. For most language learners, these reasons will relate to the country’s people and their culture. If you’re looking to improve career prospects, have a well-defined job in mind that you are passionate about. Be clear about how speaking the language will help you get it. Next, find a way you’ll be able to use the language. The clearest (and most fun) solution is to move overseas, especially if this is your first time learning a language. Pick somewhere you’d really love to live and find a reason to live there – to work, study, volunteer or even learn to salsa. Make it clear and make it happen. You should aim to be at an intermediate level when you...

Read More
The First 24 Hours in China
Jan09

The First 24 Hours in China

If you’re from somewhere like Australia or America and have never done much travelling before – you might want to start elsewhere than China and ease your way into it. Although I have travelled before, including in Asia, China is the country most unlike my own in comparison to the others I’ve visited. And, despite being relatively China-literate (and yet so illiterate compared to some of the foreigners I’ve met here so far), I was pretty shocked from the moment the plane touched the ground. So you might want to start with a more ‘comfortable’ Asian country before coming here. On the first leg of my flight, from Melbourne to Shanghai Pudong, I befriended the Chinese family sitting next to me and shamelessly pestered them for language practice for the 10-hour journey. In reality, they were actually pretty stoked that I spoke their language (even though the daughter spoke quite good English and studied in the States) and even let me use their iPad to watch some Chinese TV shows aimed at 13 year-old Chinese girls. Language-tip: Fly with a Chinese airline! I don’t know whether it’s out of some sort of China-loyalty or what, but the plane was packed with Chinese with only a couple of foreigners scattered around the place. You’ll probably be seated next to some poor Chinese guy who will have to endure your endless questions. I transferred at Shanghai to a second flight destined for Beijing. I watched a couple of other foreigners trying to ask airport staff whether they spoke English so that they could tell them where they were supposed to go to catch their connecting flight, but their efforts were in vain: people don’t really speak English here. People will tell you that in the big cities, Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, etc, you will find people who speak English at every corner, but it’s a lie, I tell you! I’ve only met a few who could, and they were at places that had a lot of contact with foreigners. You would think at a major airport you could find someone who could speak it, but from what I saw in Shanghai, I wouldn’t count on it. But maybe I’m just used to Europe, where you can pretty much count on people speaking English in many countries (and on them insisting on it, which is annoying if you’re trying to learn their language). I noted when I spoke to my Australian friend who met me in Beijing that many tourists in China have this arrogance in expecting people to speak English, as if they should just so they can help out some silly...

Read More