For me there is no question that being fully immersed in a country is the best way to learn a language. I was fortunate enough to live in Serbia for two years, but believe it or not, it still wasn’t enough. Now living back in California, I’ve had to work twice as hard to keep the progress and continue advancement in Serbian fluency.
Now I wasn’t studying the full two years I was in Serbia. The first few months I was adjusting to my new lifestyle and surroundings. Then I spent the next few months trying the “self-help” ways of learning a language: YouTube videos, online PDFs, asking my Serbian partner to assist, etc. When I finally realized that wasn’t working I decided to take formal lessons and I enrolled with a local school.
Unfortunately, I didn’t find myself growing and learning in that atmosphere. My teacher was a nice woman, but did not instruct in a way that worked for me and the way I learn best. I felt disappointed and frustrated and I dreaded going to class… that’s a big red flag. You must be in an environment that makes you excited for class! You look forward to going and learning and you enjoy your instructor, whether in-person or virtually. That being said, I quit classes, felt discouraged and went back to the “self-help” method for far too long.
After moving back to California I was extremely worried about losing the progress I made in Serbia. My in-laws don’t speak English and for me, that’s the biggest motivator in not just keeping up, but continuing to progress to fluency in the language. That’s when I found Preply and my Serbian tutor Tamara (I’ve linked her profile for anyone looking to learn Serbian – I highly recommend her). Preply is an online educational platform that pairs students with private tutors remotely via online chat.
I take one hour classes with Tamara three times a week. I not only love that she’s patient and repeats herself over and over again, but she never makes me feel dumb, even when I make dumb mistakes. That’s so important to me when it comes to my teacher. I am extra hard on myself, so I need someone who is going to lift me up and help me give myself grace in my learnings. Classes have given me a new kind of confidence and I don’t just find myself speaking more with my partner in our every day lives, but I find myself excited for classes and excited to practice what she taught me.
Moving away from a country where you were learning the language gave me a new type of long-distance relationship. It’s not a relationship with another person, it’s a relationship between what I learned there and what I’m trying to continue learning here. And just like a real long-distance relationship, it takes time, effort, and consistency.