We all know that learning something new can be really stressful and frustrating. Learning a language is not the exception, and much less when we are limited by the need of words, pronunciation, and expressions that allow us to be understood in another language with structures that our brain sometimes may not allow us to work with because they are quite different from those of our mother tongue.
Learning a language is as challenging as learning any other subject because it requires dedication, effort, perseverance, and of course, the development of certain skills, as well as a lot of discipline to deal with new concepts, terms, the organization of ideas, pronunciation, etc.; in other words, learning a new language is stressful and challenging because we need to “come out of our comfort zone” to start dealing with unknown structures, fighting our brain to understand that there is new logics in something that we have always done in an certain way - as in the case of adjective-noun syntax in English, which is the opposite from Spanish (blue car- carro azúl), or the verb “have” in French that has nothing to do with the same word in Spanish ( Il y a - hay); or the word “yes” in Swedish (io) that has nothing to do with its synonym in Spanish or French ( sí- oui).
At the beginning of the process of learning a new language we “lose” the control of language and that makes us feel insecure, uncomfortable, frustrated and stressed. We start to be dependent on the support of someone else, in this case, our tutor or teacher, who now has the control, as we constantly depend on his approval and guidance. So, how do we get to know and understand those new forms, structures and rules in a different language?
As adults, we use our mother tongue as a basis for making comparison and contrast. We also support our learning on logics and mental processes to assimilate the information and reprocess it, and then, to emit the final result, that is, the concept of the target language.
But, how do we cope with frustration, difficulties and errors? How important is it to have a positive attitude towards learning? Why is laughing at mistakes instead of getting stressed, frustrated, upset or sad, or in the worst of the cases, quitting our learning process so important?
Scientists have found that laughter is a healing force that in many cases has helped patients to improve their medical condition. The act of laughing makes your brain feel that everything is going all right, some chemicals are released and you feel good or better. Remember that your brain believes what you tell it, no matter if it is true or false. It just believes that it does not have the capacity to distinguish reality and fiction.
In addition, “A prolonged laugh increases brain and body oxygenation. A laugh induces reflex activation of mirror neurons, strengthening the principle of socialization. The joke or prank eventually reaches the intelligent brain, and primarily the frontal lobe of the brain is activated. That is associated with increased cognitive functioning ”.
On the other hand, the brain has no sense of humor, and it does not make the difference between positive or negative thoughts. Therefore, if you are telling yourself continuously that you are not doing ok - in whatever aspect of your life, including learning - if you are criticizing every single mistake you make when learning, there will be fewer possibilities that you advance more in language proficiency than if you are positive and see your mistakes as an opportunity to learn.
When you laugh, you are sending positive messages to your brain. At the same time, you breath in a better way sending oxygen to your lungs and heart, which at the same time, will send oxygen to every single part of your body; and all this will make you feel better and of course, it will release you from stress and anxiety. Consequently, you will have better ideas and more capacity to understand and produce more and new concepts.
“The human brain tends to be happy, it constantly promotes it, although having more elements to start reflecting or to be sad, the nature of our cerebral cortex looks for elements to calm down and feel that not everything is wrong".
Below are some recommendations that you may take into consideration to enjoy your learning process and go forward on it:
You will be less stressed if you recognize your mistakes or difficulties and look for support to resolve them.
Remember that every language learner must have stepped in your shoes any time.
You do not have to make a joke of every mistake you make, but you can learn how to enjoy learning and self-assess yourself in a more positive way.
Be careful! The fact that you laugh at your mistakes does not imply that everyone else will accept that you make fun out of his/hers. All people are different. Not everybody has the same feelings and experiences regarding others and criticizing their own mistakes. For that reason, make sure to understand and respect peoples’ personality and attitude towards correction.
When you are open to learning and more generous with yourself, things flow more easily because you can examine structures and concepts. And you will be more relaxed to understand them.
“Laughing within a group of friends is an approval code; in the work or office environment, it reduces tension.And in the family, it predisposes to better communication".
Laugh to learn, it is free! The ones who laugh more not only live longer, but of course, learn more.