Learning a foreign language by yourself

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In this article I want to share with you my Swedish learning process, which I achieved almost by myself. I say this, because during high school I was renting a room in the house of a very nice Swedish lady (thank you Elisabeth!). She hastened my learning process. Anyways, these tips could be applied to any language you would like to learn and especially if you move to a new country. Obs: I do think age matters in how fast you would be able to get a hang of the new language.

I moved to Sweden when I was 17 and I didn’t know a single Swedish word. I didn’t even know what this language sounded like. When I first listened to it I was thinking that I hear Chinese (I use this example as I don’t know any similarity between Chinese and the languages I know) instead. I was scared that I could never learn it, because at that time I didn’t even know when a word starts or ends. Then I thought to myself: I have to learn this language as I will be living in that country for a while!

I took the bull by the horns and the first step I took into learning this foreign language was to buy a Swedish course book (with CD included!). I was literally crying inside, because I was struggling so much with the pronunciation and spelling of words. Grammar was not an issue as it is similar to the English one. I did not finish the book, but I had the basics in mind.

The second step was the hardest. I moved to Sweden and I started high school, where I took the IB program. I was thinking that it is an international program and everyone should speak English. It was not the case here. People were only using Swedish and who am I to blame them?! I was the new one in their country. I felt so frustrated, because I couldn’t understand almost anything! Again, you need power to get over this feeling and concentrate on what is the most important. What I did was to start reading an online newspaper article every day, writing down all the words that I didn’t know (and trust me, there were so many!). I continued in this way until one day, when my colleagues talked I could actually understand what they were saying! Anyhow, I still replied in English, but it was the first time when I felt included in the society.

The final step I took was to continue reading, listening to radio, watching TV, English movies with Swedish subtitles and to actually use the language whenever I had to. Nowadays people are pleasantly surprised when I tell them I learned the language by myself. One important advice for anyone that goes through the same challenge is to never give up!

PS: the only Swedish language course that I undertook was nothing compared to learning by myself 🙂

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