6 Exciting Milestones When Learning a New Language
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6 Exciting Milestones When Learning a New Language

Ximena Lama-Rondon
Ximena Lama-Rondon

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It’s no secret that learning a foreign language is a long-term ordeal. We have already covered how long it takes to learn Spanish from scratch – and you can use the same timeline for French, German, Italian or Portuguese. With its complex alphabet, Russian will demand a few more months and tears out of you.

Running in AZ
Photo by Isaac Wendland / Unsplash

This path is not a straightforward one, either. Roadblocks and plateaus are common, and many spend weeks feeling like they are not making any progress. But fret not: these roadblocks are usually shattered when you accidentally hit the next milestone.

Yes – it will happen when you are not trying.

Why Do These Milestones Matter?

In a way, milestones and goals always matter, and the language acquisition process is no exception. That sense of accomplishment hits our brain’s reward mechanism and makes us feel excited at our own accomplishment, boosting your motivation. This is why so many apps and games now play funky sounds and give you stars whenever a quest is completed!

The milestones we list here are not as flashy or as simple, but they all show that you have levelled up your language skills somehow. They may happen when you are on your own, actively using the language – so it will be up to you to reward yourself.

6 Exciting Milestones That Show You’re Progressing

Beginner-Level Breakthroughs

These usually happen within the first few weeks or months after you actively commit to learning a foreign language. They all showcase basic, but vital skills!

#1 – The first time you catch song lyrics

You know that catchy summer hit from last summer? It may have even been part of the reason why you decided to learn a foreign language and fell inlove with a new culture.

The great thing about pop hits is that their chorus and bridge tend to be simple, to the point, and to rhyme. Because of this, it may not take you long for you to be able to sing along to it, pronounce it correctly, and finally understand what it’s about.

Spoiler alert: They don’t actually want you to be nice and quiet.

#2 – The first time your order something with zero English

When we are first learning a new language, we all need to revisit our introverted selves for a few months. It will be a while before you can casually chat with a server and find out about their childhood.

On the other hand, a basic and to-the-point interaction may already be within your grasp. It is very satisfying to be able to choose something off a menu, read its name properly, and understand the price without ever resorting to English. And to think a few weeks ago you couldn’t even say “food now!”

Intermediate-Level Exciting Moments

When you hit the “intermediate” level, you can already handle small talk with ease. However, talking to native speakers may still feel confusing and frustrating.

At this stage, progress also slows down, and fatigue begins to accumulate. . Take advantage of any of these milestones to renew your commitment to learning a new language.

#3 – When you catch that headline without help

Something important happened tonight, and your local English news may not be covering it yet. Whether good or bad, the best way to find out the gritty details is to tune in to the TV and start listening.

Maybe you had tried this before, and you only managed to make out a few isolated words. However, aided by the moving headlines, the videos, and the anchor’s perfect elocution, you suddenly figure it out!

A stack of old newspapers
Photo by Mr Cup / Fabien Barral / Unsplash

#4 –The first time you get directions (and understand them!)

Traditional language schools usually cover “asking for directions” during the first few lessons. These kinds of conversations usually happen in busy streets and are peppered with slang and car horns in real life.

This is why you may not be able to follow those directions until many months afterwards!

If you have finally managed to reach your destination without resorting to English, congratulations. We are sure you learned the slang on Lingopie.

Advanced-Level Exciting Moments

“Conversational” takes hard work, but “fluent” is the actual marathon. Look out for these milestones; they signal that the finish line is near.

#5 – When you first react in your new language

When we are surprised, scared, or in pain, our true selves will come out first – and so does our native language. At times of real crisis, you may have no choice but to express yourself in the language you know best.

But what if you are just startled? If Mr Whiskers jumped at you, and you said: “Mon Dieu” rather than “Gosh darn”, it’s probably because you were already thinking in French at the moment. And you managed to stick to it!

This is huge!

#6 – Did I dream that?

The final and most elusive of all language mastery symptoms: being able to dream in your new language. For many, this may take years – especially if you don’t usually recall your dreams vividly enough.

But if it happens, make sure to buy yourself an ice cream immediately after you finish filling out your dream diary.

Final Thoughts

Hitting milestones provides us with a sense of accomplishment that keeps us motivated. This can be invaluable for a long, challenging goal such as learning a new language.

Make sure to look out for any of the milestones we listed above! These are not simply good grades or “lesson completed” alert messages. They will happen as you use the language in real-life scenarios, not in the classroom. If you want to trigger them quickly, you can also study the natural language people use in daily life – and what better way to do this than through a sitcom?

Lingopie is an on-demand service offering thousands of hours of foreign language TV series and movies. Our goal is to help you master a second language and a second  culture. Sign up for a free trial.