So, you’re consuming native materials with the hope of learning a language. You read books, you play video games, you listen to music, you watch TV shows. Maybe you’re okay picking out the words that are familiar to you, but what about the ones that aren’t? Is it dangerous to guess?
Nope! Guessing is the spice of language learning, and it’s pretty darn fun to do 🙂
Sure, you will definitely guess wrong from time to time. That’s part of life! But remember, you don’t live in a vacuum, even if you’re studying your target language outside of a country that speaks it. If you’re a fan of the input hypothesis, like I am, you’ll be consuming so much native media that you’ll be confronted with common words and structures so many times that you’ll figure things out eventually. Textbooks and other lessons obviously will provide you with correct grammar or the right sense of a new word– and you’ll remember it all the better if you’ve encountered it a number of times before, even if you were wrong. Native speakers might correct you, and you’ll get the right information. Finally, if something is really bugging you, just look it up! You’ll pick up nuance as you go.
Remember: you weren’t born knowing all of the connotations of each and every word in your native language. It took time and experience to pick up those subtleties. You’ve probably said a rude word in an inappropriate situation or used a complicated word incorrectly. Embarrassment sucks, but we learn through it. And rest assured, you have less of a chance of making those kinds of mistakes as an adult– general experience counts for a lot.
Language learning is a marathon, not a sprint. The next you’re guessing and fretting over accuracy, relax and remember that with enough input (and some trial and error), you’ll get it.