Something interesting happened last month after I sent ILC’s monthly newsletter. A student of mine approached me and talked to me about the message that I wrote in the newsletter.

Here is the part that he asked me about:

“… I have been occupied with a project (on top of my regular workload) that is detrimental for Indonesian Language Consultancy’s (ILC) survival in the long run…”

I’m glad that he approached me directly and asked.

My student thought that I have used the word ‘detrimental’ wrongly and he was completely right. I could have used ‘paramount’ or ‘important’ instead. But that got me thinking for the whole day. I have not only used the word ‘detrimental’ wrongly for once, but for years! For the past few years, I sincerely believed that ‘detrimental’ means very important and I am sure that I have used that word in the essays that I have written for my post-graduate assignments!

Making such mistake would usually make us feel embarassed. But, weirdly enough, I found this mistake very funny and couldn’t help sharing it to my students – I even laughed so badly as I shared it. So, while it’s still relevant, I would like to reflect on the mistake that I made and share some tips and tricks for learning any new language.

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Tip #1: It never hurts to double check

Sure, there are some simple words that we are very confident about. But if you want to use more complex words, it might be a good idea to double check before you use it. For instance, Michael might have understood the use of prefix ‘pen-‘ in Indonesian. He knows that ‘acara’ means event and he sincerely believes that ‘pengacara’ means event organiser. Then, in a meeting with his Indonesian colleagues he say, “Kita perlu pengacara!” He might end up making them scared and confused because ‘pengacara’ actually means lawyer.

This is just one of many examples and it’s one of the less embarrassing ones. I could have avoided my mistake. Michael could have avoided his mistake and you could also avoid it if you double check the meaning of the word first. Not to mention that you can find that information easily these days by using smartphones.

Tip #2: Admits who you are

This might sound like a weird tip but I do believe that it is very important. Just like how you are not an Indonesian native speaker, I am also not an English native speaker. Until the end of my life, I will always be called a second language speaker of English and I am glad to admit that. I am still and will always be a learner, even if my control of English becomes near native in the future. By admitting that, I found it easier to deal with my own mistakes to the point that I could even laugh hardly about it.

I guess the more we think highly of ourselves as we learn something new, the harder it will hit us when we fall and make mistakes.

And this leads to my third and final tip.

Tip #3: Have a learner mindset

Regardless of how advanced you are in the language that you are learning, you should always have a learner mindset. To have a learner mindset means that you are excited to learn something new, ready to further polish what you have known and not afraid of making mistakes.

I found this very helpful even when I approach Indonesian, my native language. Rather than thinking that I am a native speaker who knows everything I need to know, I made a conscious decision to approach my native language with a learner mindset. Interestingly, this has allowed me to get deeper understanding of the language. I ended up learning something new in Indonesian almost every day.

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So I guess those are my simple tips for you who are learning a new language at the moment. I believe that they are detrimental, oops… I meant paramount, for learning any new language.

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