Language Learning Strategies for the Workplace Student

Learning a new language can be one of the most intimidating goals to tackle. Add to it the stress of learning a language for a job and you might just feel like you should give up before you even begin. However, before you bitterly burn that language textbook, or move back to your home country in complete despair, first give these strategies a try. Hopefully, they’ll help you to accomplish a greater proficiency in your target language and ease the thorny road to success!

Start small

I’ve dabbled seriously with a variety of languages throughout my life (Mandarin, French, and Russian, just to name a few) and I completely understand how scary it is to try to communicate in a new language. This is why starting small is paramount. Don’t march directly to your boss at work and start giving a presentation in your target language – that goal is simply too big and scary to consider. But you can work up to it. Start by chatting with your colleagues at the water cooler (do employees still gather at water coolers to chat?), and learn to communicate the basics like discussing a co-worker’s weekend or talking about the weather; once you’ve got these simple skills down, you can move on to bigger goals.

Practice makes perfect!

Yes, your mother’s age-old advice is actually spot-on; you need to practise, practise, practise if you want to gain any sort of language proficiency. This means trying out your language skills any chance you get. Whether learning to make small talk with the receptionist or garnering the skills to properly greet your colleagues before a meeting, you should put your skills to the test. Otherwise, how will you ever know how good you are or how much you need to improve?

Making a fool of yourself is A-Okay!

Okay, okay, it’s probably not the best mindset to look at yourself as a fool, but the point is you shouldn’t be ashamed of making mistakes when you’re doing your best to learn a foreign language. One of the first things I was told when I first started learning Mandarin was that I couldn’t be afraid of looking silly or else I wouldn’t learn with the same capacity. Yes, it’s not always fun and sometimes you’ll want to give up and settle into a pile of frustrated tears, but every mistake is a learning experience which brings you closer to your goal of language proficiency!

Seek out opportunities

We’ve pretty much already established how terrifying language learning can be, but I’m about to ask you to do something which may possibly be even scarier: put yourself out there. As you become more comfortable with your target language you’ll probably feel more reluctant to seek out new opportunities which will pull you out of your comfort zone. But no matter how wonderful and cozy said comfort zone is, don’t give in. Ask your boss to put you on projects which will force you to put your language skills to use, request that business opportunity abroad so you can practice the language overseas, in short, sell yourself and your super awesome language abilities.

If you’ve only begun to consider learning a language and haven’t yet formally started training, our inquiry page should have all the information you need to nudge you in the right direction! If you’re looking for a way to test your language skills, don’t worry, you needn’t look too much further: Language Trainers also provides proficiency tests (like this Mandarin Chinese exam) so you can see exactly where you stand and how you can improve. I know that learning a new language is difficult, especially if you have added pressure from your job to do so, but small steps are the key. Slowly work your way towards your goal by following these tips and (of course) getting some good language instruction. Happy learning!