Have you ever looked at a polyglot and thought “How did they manage to learn all those languages?” Is the success in languages really for a select few? Perhaps you look upon polyglots with jealousy or even admiration? It’s understandable. But as you’ll soon see, you to can to be an efficient language learner. This can be achieved by using ‘Soft Skills’. These are the skills that you are not necessarily taught (but should be) in schools!
What are Soft Skills?
The term ‘soft skills’ basically refers to ‘people skills‘. So it is those personal attributes that give an indication of high emotional intelligence. Soft Skills are something that is much needed in today’s society, but sadly is clearly lacking! An example of these skills is how you choose to communicate with others. Schools typically fail to develop our soft skills. They are more interested in students memorising facts for tests. Especially in subjects that many students will never actually use in real life!
So Why are Soft Skills so Important?
Soft skills can have a huge impact on your life. Skills such as being a good listener and having a positive mindset are all signs of soft skills. To be successful in language learning and life, in general, you need to be proficient in soft skills. The good news is you don’t have to be born with these skills. You can learn them and with practice excel in this area. The most successful people tend to have a vast majority if not all of the skills listed below.
24 Soft Skills Ideal for Language Learners
1. Listening Skills. We have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason! Through listening, you can improve your language learning skills. You may also gain more friends as a majority of people just love to talk about themselves or their lives. When learning a new language ensure you are listening more than you speak it. That way you will be exposed to the correct pronunciation of words and it will vastly improve your understanding.
2.Accept Feedback. Whether good or bad, feedback is absolutely vital for success. For example, you can not progress if you are unaware of what you are doing wrong. So welcome criticism, it is actually your friend not your enemy and it will enable you to make positive changes in language learning.
3. Focus. In today’s technological advanced world the average attention span has actually dropped to an all time line. If you can improve your focus of attention this will give you a great advantage in life. Focus on just one thing for about 10 – 20 minutes, take a short break and then can back to the task for another 10 – 20 minutes. It is easy to get distracted so turn off your mobile phone, close all the tabs you have on the computer and get cracking. It will also help to set goals. For example to learn 5 new words/sentences or characters. Check out 10 Tips for Mindful Language Learning to help you improve your focus.
4. Be Flexible. Flexibility is not taught in schools! However, it is required in all aspects of life. If you are part of a study group online adjust your plans to meet study requirements. It is not always easy and family does come first. If you want to achieve your goals you need to be bendy rather that rigid!
5. Courteous and Well-Mannered. In my personal experience, many people seem to be unaware of how they actually treat others. For example, they may appear arrogant and rather aloof when in reality they may actually be a bit shy or lacking confidence. To be courteous and good-mannered will attract the right support and you may find people want to help you more. Different cultures have different mannerisms and courteous behaviours, which are worth researching. For example, I am currently learning Mandarin – Chinese and I have spent the last week or so learning key vocab in this area and researching cultural beliefs.
6. Team Work. Surround yourself with positive like-minded people. Language learning is a social skill. So do not shut yourself away with a grammar book to learn a language. Remember you are not an island! If you are a language teacher or have an online language blog, you must also know how to motivate and inspire your students or subscribers.
7. Be competitive. In schools, they teach that everyone is a winner, just for taking part. However, being competitive is essential to success in the real world. Don’t just compete with others. For me, I always try to get a high score on memories as well as beat the previous week school. I find this helps to motivate me and increases my vocab too!
8. Confidence. Successful people always seem to have so much confidence! You’ll need to do the same if you want to be successful. Plant some small goal seeds, nourish these seeds (revising, studying, practising and also ensuring some time out), then watch your confidence grow and flower out. Confidence, not feeling it. Then fake it till you make it. By being confident you will eventually become more confident.
9. Trust. Trust in others and yourself! If you keep saying others or you will let yourself down this may become a self-fulling prophecy really. Eventually, you may even start to believe this and then just give up. Tell yourself “You got this“. Being more trustful will help you to gain the confidence of others, and soon you will develop a reputation for being honest and reliable.
10. Continuous Improvement. Continuous development is important and I always try to be a better person than I was the day before. I allocate time each week for self-development. The very fact that you are learning a new language shows that you believe in self-development too.
11. Recharge. Have you noticed how successful people are really energetic? They are lively, vivacious and highly charismatic. If your energy levels are low, you’re unlikely to be attracting success. Try boosting your energy through practising these soft skills, eating healthy, drinking enough water, least 30 minutes exercise, at least 3 times a week and meditation.
12. Interpersonal Skills. Happy people know how to communicate with others. They are comfortable communicating with people from all different backgrounds. They also know how to have constructive and inspiring conversations. Reflect on your correct interpersonal skills what do you feel you need to change in this area?
13. Be Friendly. Trolling language learning forums isn’t a likely way to make friends or discover exciting opportunities and get support. Smile, even when you are just typing away on the keyboard.
14. Develop a Positive Mindset. “You can’t have a positive life with a negative mindset” Negativity especially when applied to language learning will get you nowhere. If anything those in a negative mindset are more likely to quit! Life, and pardon my English at times will be shit and if you choose to focus on the ‘shit’, you’ll quickly lose sight of what you are truly capable of. Positive people constantly seek out new opportunities without the fear of if they will be successful or not. Yes, you do have to be realistic, but do so with a positive mindset.
15. Organisational Skills. Are you organised? I have a journal for my language learning. It also has all my Skype tutorials and study group meetups listed. I would be lost without my language learning journal. Being highly-organized is a very desirable soft skill. It is also essential for success! Check out 10 Ways to use a Bullet Journal to Improve Language Learning
16. Body Language. We may be learning a language, but most our face-to-face communication actually via body language! Although slight deviations across cultures, body language can be universal to an extent. Learn body language and this makes chatting to a native speaker of your target language much easier. Also remember it’s a very useful skill to have, as sometimes body language contradicts what someone is saying with words.
17. Set Goals. You want to be a successful language learning and achieve, then you must have specific goals. Check out my eBook that looks at being a positively productive and motivated language learner via a more holistic approach using positive thinking and goal setting strategies. Alternately download my FREE 28DayLanguagePlanner to help you plan ahead.
18. Problem Solving Skills. Struggling with language learning? Have you hit that language learning wall. Rather than dwell on the problems faced. Focus on the solutions required. If a method isn’t working for you. Change it. Simple. You will always get the same results if you always do the same thing. Want different results. Try something new!
19. Laughter. Humour is important, especially in language learning. Don’t take yourself too seriously. You will make mistakes. We all do and that is okay. We can learn from them. I once kept telling my tutor “I like to be a dog at home” another time I mispronounced a word and swore at a tutor, Now I could have logged off and never went back or we could have a laugh about it, build some rapport and it’s a story to tell my own students and subscribers.
20. Respect Others. This, unfortunately, is a soft skill that isn’t used as much as it should be. There are some really self-centered people out there who put their desires above the needs of others. Make sure you value and respect all those who support you in the language learning communities you below too. Interestingly, by respecting others, you’ll earn their respect in return.
21. Time Management. Tutor sets a time and you skype 10 minutes late. This happens on a regular basis? Time management skills are really important and if you can better manage your time it will make your language learning more efficient. Try to get ready for a skype tutorial at least 10 minutes before you go live. Focus on words you struggle with first rather than what you know well.
22. Helping Others With Troubleshooting. If someone is struggling work with them and offer some suggestions on how they could improve their language learning.
23. Smile More and Stretch! Smiling realises feel-good hormones that also help motivation and confidence levels. Stretching also helps to release those feel-good endorphins.
24. Patience. Things will not always go to plan and that’s okay. Some days you will make progress and other days you will not. Try not to get angry or frustrated. Be patience with language learning. Rome wasn’t built in a day. By practising poise and calmness you will feel less stressed. If your tutor cancels on you use this time to reflect on language learning rather than moan you have been let down.
As you can see, soft skills are an essential part of successful language learning. Develop the skills you already have, and adopt the ones that you are missing. If you can do this then you will be priming yourself for success in whatever language you are learning.