Sometimes I have students who no matter how hard they try they seem to be facing a huge wall. I think all of us language learners have experienced this wall.
We stare at lists of vocabulary, we pour over grammar charts, review tenses over and over again but feel like we aren't getting anywhere. We don't feel more comfortable with the language we're learning and we certainly are not more fluent.
This is because the moments of learning don't occur when we stare at lists or grammar charts. It's in our moments of experience that true learning takes place.
We learn when we make a mistake; for example when I discovered that pero, did not mean dog (it's perro). I was embarrassed and committed myself to remembering this simple word for the most popular kind of animal you see in most countries.
We learn when we have an interaction with someone who introduces us to a new word and it just sticks! Like the time I learned the word for flamingo in Italian. Someone explained to me that their friend had adopted this flamboyant word as their name because they loved the sound of it. Now I will never forget the word fenicottero (don't forget to roll that last r!).
We learn when we experience art, literature, music. I will never forget the future form of sér in Spanish because of the song "Que Sera" Whatever will be will be.
We learn when we find out cool facts behind the language we're learning. This was the case when I learned that the meaning of "Ojalá" comes from the arabic word for God, Allah. It means God willing or now more commonly it means I hope.
As teachers we can help our students to have these experiences, we can share stories and jokes, we can give examples and explanations. For some learners this works, but for others they have to be immersed completely in their experiences everyday. Every moment is an opportunity to learn a new word or a new way to say something.
As students you can immerse yourself, you can watch movies, listen to the radio, have conversations with people who speak the language you are learning.
Don't be afraid to make mistakes, to sing silly songs and to jump in with both feet!