“Coulda, shoulda, oughta – but didn’t…”
Let’s face it. You would like to put a grammar book under your bed and wake up in the morning fluent. We all would. It’s just not going to happen.
Unfortunately, learning a language is a long-term activity and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. There are a number of lies that are spread about language learning, myths that need to be debunked if you are going to get anywhere. Here are some of them.
Lie 1: “It’s easy to learn a language”
Many learning product manufacturers make this claim as a way of marketing their products to us in words that will appeal. No doubt, some products are more effective, more interactive, even more fun than others. But you still have to learn. Often, these products are highly effective at making the meaning of what you are learning clear, but understanding is only part of the learning process. And then, why should learning be easy or fun? Define easy. Define fun. A mountain climber is attracted to the challenge of the mountain. And what interests me can bore you.
Lie 2: Some people have a talent for learning languages, or “I’m just not the learning type”
This lie is the favourite of those who find learning languages difficult. They want to believe that there are some who can effortlessly learn because these people have a natural talent. But, just as Olympic athletes and virtuoso musicians make it to the top by dedicating themselves, language learners who reach the “top” have also spent far more time learning than those whose language capabilities are not quite as advanced.
Everyone can learn. Life is about learning. We learn new things every day. To say you don’t have the capability or talent to learn is, frankly, rubbish.
Lie 3: “It’s all about the right method”
If 99 people use method X and it works fine for them but the 100th person uses it and it doesn’t work, does this mean that person 100 is stupid? Or unable to learn? Let’s imagine we are talking about diets. There are thousands of diets that all claim to be the best. And, no doubt, for some people they do work. There is even a diet where you go and stay on a mountain top for two weeks and eat sausages and drink beer while doing no exercise and still find yourself losing a stone in weight (something to do with the thinner air stimulating your metabolism). But this diet can not find it’s place in our daily routine (unless we live on a mountain) and so will fail. The same is with methods. The best method is the one that works for you!
Lie 4: “I should be better than I am because I’ve been learning the language for X years”
This lie is a frustration reaction. They confuse the passing of time with the acquisition of learning. Example, typically, a German person has English lessons once a week for 90 minutes in a group of six to eight participants (typical situation in a private language school). If each person in the group speaks for the same amount of time, that’s 11 – 15 minutes speaking time per week. Not much practice, eh? With a course stretching over 40 weeks, that’s a maximum of 7 – 10 hours speaking time after 365 days of “learning”. Anyone who can say anything in the language after this little amount of practise should be commended!
Lie 5: “I don’t have time to learn”, or “I’m too lazy”
This is a language learning killer! Even the most convincing of trainers cannot counter this argument. This is a question of priority. In effect, the learner is saying that he or she considers English to be too low priority. Only when English suddenly becomes an urgent priority will the learner (perhaps) find time for learning, just like the Government has no money until disaster strikes and then it springs into action. Those who think they “should” learn often know that they could find the time if they want to but are too “lazy”. Again, this is often not the case but rather a subconscious realisation that learning the language is a “nice-to-have” but not a “must”. Result: the motivation to learn is not there. It will come when needed, mark my words!
Don’t lie to yourself. Don’t let others lie to you. Do it because you want to and know why you are doing it.