My view on the main challenge in learning a new language

Posted on July 8, 2024

I strongly believe that learning a second language is very challenging, especially for a unilingual speaker, but that it’s not at all impossible or unsurmountable. Yes, it’s a lot of work, but the biggest obstacle and main challenge I see lie in the learner’s own attitude toward learning the target language, regardless of the language. As Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, you are right.”

Maintaining a positive attitude

The good news is that when we keep an open mind and maintain a positive attitude, it becomes easier to embark on our learning journey. Learning a second language is very similar to learning to play a piece of music or an instrument, or engaging in a sporting activity. Once you’ve learned the basic rules and feel comfortable using your second language in your daily life, you’ll likely find it much easier to carry on learning and possibly even learn a third, fourth or fifth language, and so on.

Jumping in with both feet

For me, learning a new language is like jumping into water with both feet. What I mean by this is that we shouldn’t limit our language learning to just an academic setting; we should get totally involved. A language and its rich culture are like the two sides of the same coin; they’re inseparable and deeply intertwined.

When I’m learning a new language, I listen to music in that language. Even though I may not be able to fully comprehend what’s being sung in the lyrics, it’s still part of training my auditory sense. Other ways to get accustomed to a language include watching movies, tuning into a radio station, or reading comic strips or books in the language you’re learning. In addition, you can get in touch with and participate in the community of the target language by attending cultural events, social activities and festivals, and by eating the community’s foods, listening to its music, and playing an active part in its celebrations and festivities.

Learning together

We’re very fortunate, as Canada has such a variety of linguistic communities. Often, the people who belong to these communities are more than happy to welcome us and are even more thrilled that we’re trying to learn and get to know their language and culture. After all, in my opinion, it’s a universal sign of respect that anyone can demonstrate to the people who belong to a linguistic community.

Remember that it’s challenging to learn a language in isolation; it may be possible but with great difficulties and frustration, and it would also be extremely boring and dry.

Acquiring your new language

Young children don’t actually learn a language, they acquire it. They have no preconceived notion of language nor do they carry linguistic baggage concerning the language being spoken to them. So, we, as adults, can learn from these youngsters and emulate them by having an open mind and being fully enthusiastic in embracing the language we want to acquire. The path to the acquisition of a new language will likely be much easier than we previously thought and a lot more fun. That, I guarantee.


The opinions expressed in posts and comments published on the Our Languages blog are solely those of the authors and commenters and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Language Portal of Canada.

Get to know Samson Young

Samson Young

Samson Young is a first-generation Canadian who immigrated as a refugee to Canada more than four decades ago. He speaks seven languages and has been proudly serving his adopted country as an officer of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals in the Canadian Armed Forces for more than 30 years. Samson has been on two peacekeeping missions and two temporary duties overseas. In addition to his work and his passion for languages, Samson’s interests include serving as a long-time volunteer interpreter assisting new Canadians.



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