I don’t go around bragging about how many languages I speak. When people find out that I’m multilingual it’s usually because they’ve either witnessed it first hand or had somebody tell them. A lot of people tell me to brag about it and that I should flaunt it, but I don’t see the point. Why? You’re probably asking yourself? One: because I’m a humble person and two: because ANYBODY can do what I do, so why brag about it? Also on a side note, there are many people who speak way more languages than I do.
Alright, so I know you’re probably still rereading that last paragraph and scratching your head, but I have some good news! You read it right! The word “ANYBODY” is actually there. It’s not your imagination. ANYBODY can actually learn one or more languages. In this post I’m going to debunk some of the most common misconceptions and self defeating beliefs that people seem to have about language learning and also about people who speak multiple languages. I’m going to warn you, your language learning excuses are about to be rendered invalid and you may feel a slight feeling of motivation. Yes, I know! It can feel uncomfortable at times, but just bare with me. I take no responsibility for any positivity that enters your life as a result of you diving back into your high school Spanish or brushing up on your rusty French. That’s all on you, Dawg. Anyway, here we go!
Myth Number 1: You guys have gifts! I could never do what you guys do!
This is probably one of the most common responses I get when I tell people that they too can learn 1, 2,3 or 10 languages. A lot of people have unfortunately had their first experiences learning languages in classroom settings. If their experiences were anything like my past experiences, they probably spent a lot of time studying grammar out of context and memorizing verb conjugations. Learning that way is no fun at all and believe it or not, it also made me think I couldn’t do it at first either. The good news is that it’s NOT that you lack a gift or some special ability, it’s that you’re probably being taught in a way that isn’t very conducive to you getting far or reaching your linguistic goals. If you ever feel like you don’t have what it takes to learn another language, remember that I was kicked out of French immersion back in grade 6 for being THAT bad. Write this down and read it when ever you doubt yourself if you need to! “If I ever doubt myself, I’ll always remember that I wasn’t kicked out of French immersion in the 6th grade”. Put that on your wall or get it tattooed on your chest so that you can motivate others too!
Please don’t actually get that tattooed on your body. It is possible to be “too motivated” and that would be a prime example of being “too motivated”. Stick to maybe saving it in the notes app on your smart phone!
Myth Number 2: I’m stupid and could never learn another language!
Yes, people literally use those exact words and the amount of people that believe this blows my mind! Sometimes I wonder if I should pull them aside and help them see that they actually are intelligent people or if I should continue trying to motivate them to learn more languages. The thing is that if you’re able to read this blog post, you ARE in fact smart enough to learn a language because you learned English. Just like with the first misconception, your intelligence probably doesn’t have anything to do with it. It was probably the setting that you were taught in. If somebody were to try to teach somebody to drive blindfolded, the trainee would eventually start to wonder if they were stupid or just bad at driving compared to their non blindfolded counterparts too.
I thought I was stupid for the entire 6 years I spent in French immersion due to the teaching methods. I was probably 17 when I finally realized that it wasn’t me that was stupid, but rather the teaching method itself. I’m not trying to attack educational institutions in this post, but rather the teaching methods that some of them use when it comes to language instruction. Some people actually learn languages way better in classes. I personally, however, am not one of them and the most successful language learners that I’ve ever met also tend to be self taught.
Myth Number 3: I don’t have enough time to learn another languages!
I wanted to avoid using political figures in my posts, but I want you to imagine Donald Trump right now. Do you see him in yours mind’s eye? Now I want you to imagine him saying “Wrooooong!”
You DO have enough time to learn a new language. You just need to organize your time a bit better and fit the language learning in. It is possible! I don’t have very much time, but I still stay on top of my languages by listening to them while I’m driving, grocery shopping, going for walks and many other things. It can be very easy to fit the language into your life if you sit down and plan it out. I wrote an entire article on this and it can be viewed by clicking on this link!
Myth Number 4: I need to travel to learn new languages!
Wroooong! This is another one of the misconceptions/myths that I hear the most frequently! A lot of people seem to believe that you NEED to live in a foreign country in order to learn the local language. In most cases, this couldn’t be farther from the truth! It IS possible to learn a foreign language at home. You could even learn from the comfort your own bed… in your pyjamas… if you wanted too! Who would turn that down? I’m literally giving you an excuse to stay in bed in your pyjamas! What other blog would tell you to do that? Just make sure you still get your input in!
There are tons of websites to find language exchange partners, there are youtube videos, you can go to the library and borrow books. You can even buy them online and have them shipped to your house! I wasn’t kidding when said that you can literally learn a language without leaving your home.
I’m not trying to turn you guys off of travelling. Travelling is great, but I’m trying to prove to you guys that it’s not the X factor that’s standing between you and fluency. It can be a lot easier learning a foreign language in its country of origin, but it’s not the make or break factor separating you from your goals. I learned every single one of the languages I speak right here in Canada. The longest time I’ve ever spent outside of Canada was ONE MONTH. If I can do it after being kicked out of grade 6 French immersion, then so can you!
Myth Number 5: Language learning just doesn’t come easy to me!
Omg samzies! Language learning doesn’t come easy to me either! I actually don’t know anyone at all who managed to learn a language to fluency without struggling at in one way or another. Learning a new language can be very mentally taxing. It is by no means an easy task. There are, however, many ways to make the task easier, but there is no way to completely remove the struggle or difficulty from language learning unfortunately. Everybody will struggle at some point when learning a new languages. Everybody learns differently so different aspects of different languages will be difficult for different people. I struggled to no end with the cases in Russian. I just couldn’t wrap my head around them. They make no sense to me and stress me out. Other people find Slavic cases extremely easy and I would really like to know what is being slipped into their water because I want some too! Some people find gender difficult in different languages, some don’t. Some people struggle with pronunciation and some don’t. If you dive into a new language expecting it to be extremely easy and struggle free, then you’re already setting yourself up for failure. It’s not that it doesn’t come easy to you, it’s that you’re not approaching the language the right way!
The light at the end of the tunnel!
So in this post I’ve covered 5 of the many misconceptions/myths that people have about language learning and successful language learners. There are still many many more, but the good news is that most of them probably can and will be debunked. The difference that I see between the people who give up and drop languages and ultimately end up believing the misconceptions mentioned in this post and the people who go on to attain all of their language related goals isn’t that big. The people who give up seem to go into it in a more unprepared manner with unrealistic expectations. I’m guilty of this too. I’ve dropped many languages because the learning process didn’t end up going the way I wanted it to.
The people who succeed seem to plan everything out more and they also set realistic, attainable goals. They keep pushing when the other group gives up. They change their game plans when the other group makes excuses. They understand that struggling and making mistakes are all parts of the process when the other group believes that they’ve hit plateaus and most importantly, they believe in themselves in the face of difficulty and struggle when the other group starts to question their capabilities! Which group do you want to be in? I’ve been in both and I know which group has a higher success rate! You too can be in the more successful group! You just need to let go of all of the many misconceptions you have and believe in yourself!
This picture was taken in Montreal, Canada