Students in my school began learning second languages at age fourteen.
The first day of French 1 was seriously a hoot FOR ME. Me: Verbal and physical gymnastics. Students: Bewilderment and occasional joy. It took me a few years to register how overwhelming this new subject and new type of learning could be.
I then settled on teaching students these three ideas (in French, with pantomiming), from the beginning. The first days got better and better after this change. Here are the three most important things for students to realize from day 1 of level 1:
TRUTH #1: Confusion is normal when learning a new language.
When I started expressing this idea to students, I saw immediate relief and the release of anxiety. I tell students to try to get "the gist" and tell them that, at the beginning, understanding even 10% is a victory.
TRUTH #2: You will never understand everything that is said in this world language class (AKA - the confusion never ends). This is connected, of course, to truth #1. However, this becomes more important over time. Students need to know that the learning process in a second language requires that their language skills be constantly stretched. The classic i + 1.
LIE #1: This is not my lie - but...I reveal that the student who seems to understand everything is...FAKING IT. That student who nods and smiles and seems confident is...also lost.
What do you do to help your beginning language learners?