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When you’re trying to learn a foreign language, the willingness to tolerate ambiguity is key. Train yourself to tolerate ambiguity, to be comfortable with making mistakes, and to allow others to correct those mistakes. Remember, these are characteristics of the growth mindset.

Processing new language, mixed with unfamiliar cultural concepts, can seem a tenuous task. Expect to come across multiple meanings, various ways of interpretation, not enough background knowledge and unfamiliar cultural norms.

It is ok to be confused. I would go further and say that confusion is a desirable state in language learning. It means that you’re processing words, ideas, concepts and notions. It means that you’re actually learning.

Think of when you’re reading a text in your target language, and you don’t exactly understand the meaning of every word. Understanding comes in increments, and language is an interconnected mechanism. As you delve deeper into the language, you’ll see that things start to make sense. You’ll be able to connect the dots. But for now, learn to live with ambiguity. You are increasing your competence and your mastery. You are gathering building blocks. You don’t need to have all the answers right now.


Action step: If you can’t understand a text or have difficulty keeping up with a conversation in your target language, use compensation strategies. The most common strategies are inferring meaning from context or from cues, guessing intelligently and associating new information with what you already know about the subject.


Have a great day of learning,

Mickey Gast