How to overcome the cringe of learning a new language
Recently, a TikToker went viral for sharing their theory on "Cringe Mountain" — the steep peak you have to climb to ever get really good at something.
At first, climbing Cringe Mountain feels like an insurmountable feat: one step after another you're riddled with self-doubt and insecurity as you make your ascent. You might slip up, miss your footing, need to take long breaks or have to double back and try again along your path. And meanwhile, onlookers down below have secondhand embarrassment watching you awkwardly make your climb.
But if you keep going, the steep peak will flatten and eventually you'll coast comfortably down to the "Land of Cool." Now everyone else enviously wishes they had the guts to climb Cringe Mountain themselves.
We hate to break it to you: but sometimes learning a language is like climbing Cringe Mountain.
When you first learn a new language, you have a ways to go before you can comfortably claim fluency. Your journey can be awkward as you use new vocabulary and phrases along the way. Toss in some conversations with native speakers and you’ll soon find that conversing in real-time pushes you outside of your comfort zone.
You might say the wrong thing, or mispronounce a few words and it can knock your confidence as you correct yourself and try again. You’re learning new skills, you’re getting better — but you’re also climbing Cringe Mountain. And like climbing a mountain, the journey can be uncomfortable and challenging, but ultimately really rewarding if you stick with it.
To help you overcome the cringe of learning a new language, here are some tips to help you get to the Land of Cool:
1. Embrace the awkwardness
When you're first starting out, it's natural to feel self-conscious and unsure of yourself. But instead of letting that hold you back, embrace the awkwardness. Recognize that making mistakes is a natural part of the learning process, and it's okay to stumble along the way.
2. Practice, practice, practice
The more you practice, the more comfortable you'll become with the language. Seek out opportunities to use your new skills in real-life situations, whether that's by chatting with a native speaker or amongst other friends looking to build fluency. The more you immerse yourself in the language, the faster you'll make progress.
3. Invest in your learning journey
Whether it’s a fully immersive course abroad, or a cultural exchange program, take the time to invest in your journey to fluency with language courses. You won’t regret taking the time to learn a language — and it will help you climb Cringe Mountain with more support along the way.
4. Get yourself a language exchange partner
Learning with someone else can make the journey less daunting. Find a language exchange partner who speaks the language you're learning and who wants to practice your native language. This way, you can learn from each other and get valuable feedback in a low-pressure environment.
5. Understand mistakes and plateaus are part of the process
Learning a new language isn’t a linear journey. There are bumps and stalls along the way. When you make a mistake, know that it is part of the learning process. No one learns a language without them. And when you plateau in your process, keep moving forward. It’s all a normal part of the journey.
6. Find your (accented) voice
When learning a language, it can be hard to hear your own accented voice speaking in a way that feels foreign to you. Push through that discomfort by imitating the accent you hear from native speakers in real life or in movies and TV shows. Try to embrace the notion that learning the accent can be half the battle so don’t be afraid to commit to getting it right.
7. Celebrate your progress
Learning a new language takes time and effort, so it's important to celebrate your progress along the way. Take note of the milestones you reach, whether that's mastering a new grammar rule or holding a conversation with a native speaker. Celebrating your successes can help you stay motivated and make the journey less intimidating.
Now put these tips to use and send us a postcard from the "Land of Cool" when you get there!