Visualization, play acting and language learning
Language learning is a long road, but it can (or must ) be an enjoyable one. At times the progress seems slow, as Autumnsky points out in a comment to this blog. It is important to enjoy all the wonderful moments when we are communicating in another language, speaking or reading or listening in another language. It is important not to think of what we have not yet achieved, but rather to feel happy at what we have already achieved and are achieving.
When I learn a new language I try to visualize myself as a native speaker of that language. I try to put myself in the position of a Korean, or a Brazilian or a Russian or an Arab. I visualize myself as a native speaker. I imitate the native speaker, especially one whose voice and intonation I find pleasing. There is no obstacle, cultural or otherwise, which prevents me from projecting myself into the position of another person. That means that the way I emphasize my ideas, my intonation, my facial expressions and body language start to imitate people of another culture. This is all part of acting out my visualization. It is the play acting part of language learning.
Language learning is a game. It is in some ways an escape from reality, from the reality of what I am as a speaker of my native language. This is part of the enjoyment of language learning. The fact that I am an imperfect imitation of the native speaker does not bother me. If I am playing a role in a play, I cannot completely become the person that I am playing. I still enjoy throwing myself into it.
If we can keep this visualization in front of us and enjoy trying to act it out, language learning remains a game and enjoyable one. If in addition we are dealing with subjects of learning and discussion that are interesting to us, then we are not so easily discouraged by the length of our journey.
Visualization is also an important element in the process of using your will power and determination to stimulate neurochemical changes in your brain. I will comment more on that later.