4 Attitudes to Cultivate in Your Second Language Learning
1. Do learn to work around things you don’t know how to say, but don’t get so comfy with your workarounds that you forget to learn the real way to say them! This actually happens to me. I get so used to “my” way of saying something that I sometimes forget that it’s not the real way!
2. Perfectionists: get over it or life will pass you by! This is easy to say and hard to do if you tend to perfectionism or self-consciousness. It took me probably a year (maybe more) before I opened my mouth without planning it out at least five minutes in advance – by which time the conversation had usually moved on. I could only take so much of that before I realized how unlike me it was! I have a personality, opinions to share, jokes to make, and none of it was coming through because I just sat around smiling instead of talking! What if I never got any better? Would I live my whole life keeping my thoughts to myself? Because that is totally not my style! So I swallowed my pride and stumbled through conversations for a while, until I really did get better and didn’t have to feel so embarrassed. We all have to go through it; it’s just part of the process.
3. Realize that most people believe deep down that their home is the best place on earth. Even people who complain endlessly about their home still think this. Convince yourself that it is, too, and if you can’t, at least have the respect not to criticize it in front of them. Several years I mentioned to a Prague friend that I’d like to go to Vienna, and he asked, “Why would you want to go there? Prague is better!” I was surprised and answered that I’d never been to Vienna and I’d heard it was nice and I’d like to go, but it underscored for me how natural and logical he felt it was that Prague is, in fact, the most beautiful city in the world. In a conversation about European cities with another friend a few years later, when I was more at home in Prague, I mentioned in passing that “Prague, of course, is the most beautiful, but other cities are also lovely…” My friend couldn’t keep the grin from her face as she said, “I love the way you said that! It’s so true!” I gained some credibility that day, too, and I know it affected how she sees me and my place in her country.
I hope you can find as many ways as possible to cultivate these four attitudes into your second language mastery.